Comment: Compensation for delays must be more accessible

Train firms should offer clear information on how to claim a refund for delays. Picture: contributed

Train firms should offer clear information on how to claim a refund for delays. Picture: contributed

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TRAIN companies must do more to ensure compensation for delays is readily accessible, writes Richard Lloyd

Waiting for a delayed train is never a pleasant thing to have to do, but unfortunately it’s a reality for many Scots, with the latest figures showing 47 million UK passenger journeys were either cancelled or significantly late in one year.

With this level of disruption, the very least the train companies can do is make sure you’re able to get the compensation to which you’re entitled. But when we looked into it we found a dire lack of information and transparency.

If you’ve ever tried to claim compensation, you’ll know how difficult it can be to get a refund for a delay or cancellation, or even to find out if you’re eligible.

The websites are often unclear, station staff aren’t up to speed with the rules and the long-winded forms make you jump through unnecessary hoops.

For ScotRail, and most other train companies, passengers are entitled to compensation if they’re delayed by half an hour or more.

However our survey of nearly 7,000 UK rail passengers found only a third of passengers who may have been entitled to compensation said they actually made a claim.

Of those who were delayed, only around a third of passengers remember being informed of their rights.

We felt that the situation was so bad that we used our super-complaint power to call on the regulator to take action to make the process clearer and easier for consumers.

Passengers in Scotland shouldn’t be left out of pocket each year, so train companies must do more to make rail refunds easier.

Alongside the super-complaint, which gives the regulator 90 days to respond to our concerns, we launched our campaign to Make Rail Refunds Easier.

We are calling for clear information on how to get a refund for delays and for all train companies to offer cash as the default form of compensation.

We also want to see train companies held to account if they fail to enable passengers to claim refunds for delays.

There are simple measures rail firms could take to improve this, such as making announcements on board the train when it’s delayed, and staff handing out flyers on platforms. Current proposals to improve compensation for passengers are too far down the track.

Even if an automatic compensation system was included in all new franchises from tomorrow, it would take until at least 2025 to cover the whole network. If you’re fed up with losing out as a result of a delayed train, then you can text RAIL to 80057 to support our campaign.

• Richard Lloyd is executive director of Which?

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