Anger over rail compensation secrecy

Three quarters of commuters say they did not know refund rules. Picture: Michael Gillen

Three quarters of commuters say they did not know refund rules. Picture: Michael Gillen

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THREE-quarters of rail passengers suffering serious delays say they are kept in the dark about their entitlement to compensation, a new survey has revealed.

Almost a third a rail passengers across the UK said they had been hit by a delay the last time they travelled.

But few of them were aware that they could claim compensation for the price of their ticket, according to research by consumer watchdog Which?

Companies will offer as much as 100 per cent compensation in the event of a delay of more than an hour, with exceptions for bad weather, security alerts or vandalism.

It also uncovered damning levels of customer satisfaction with leading rail operators over issues like punctuality, reliability and value for money.

Campaigners said the survey results painted a “bleak picture” for commuters, who have repeatedly cited the punctuality of services and how delays are dealt with as their biggest gripes. ScotRail, which will be taken over by Dutch firm Abellio next month after it won a 10-year franchise, scored an overall satisfaction rating of 55 per cent.

The Which? guide for claiming compensation for rail delays says all of the UK’s operators are obliged to follow the National Rail Conditions of Carriage, which sets out minimum levels of compensation.

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Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said: “Long delays and consistently low levels of customer service are driving commuters to distraction.

“Passengers often have little or no choice as to the rail companies they travel with, so as ticket prices continue to rocket, more must be done to improve customers’ satisfaction and to inform people of their right to a refund.”

David Sidebottom, director of rail industry watchdog Passenger Focus, said: “The top issues raised by passengers contacting us include train delays, refund conditions and levels of compensation. When trains are delayed or cancelled, it is important passengers are made aware of their rights to a refund or compensation. We want train operators to do more to inform passengers of their rights.”

Martin Abrams, spokesman for the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The Which? survey paints a bleak picture of expensive fares, frequent delays, overcrowded, dirty trains and poor communication from train companies to passengers.”

Scotland’s main train operator, which has been controlled by Aberdeen-based FirstGroup for the past decade, was rated ninth equal out of 21 companies featured in the survey of 7,300 travellers over the last 12 months.

Almost one in five ScotRail commuters said they had suffered a delay on their most recent journey, although the operator was one of the better performers, ranked fifth overall, slightly better than East Coast and Virgin Trains, with 23 per cent of both companies’ passengers complaining of a delay.

A spokesman for ScotRail said the recent independent ratings had shown “real progress” on how delays over its services were dealt with.

He added: “The National Rail Conditions of Carriage are posted on our website and promoted at stations. Frontline staff and customer relations centres are fully briefed on refunds. In addition, we use social media to alert passengers to refunds.”

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents Britain’s rail operators, said: “Compensation payments are increasingly generous, easy to apply for and are often made regardless of the cause of a delay. This is why the amount paid out to passengers increased by £10 million between 2013 and 2014.”

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