Rights to rail compensation are to be clarified

Rail passengers can be entitled to compansation for 'consequential losses' . Picture: Getty
Rail passengers can be entitled to compansation for 'consequential losses' . Picture: Getty
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Train companies are set to amend their terms in order to clarify customers’s compensation rights when they lose money on services such as hotels or taxi fares following delays or cancellations on the railway.

The Office for Road and Rail is to remove a misleading claim that passengers are not entitled to claim for consequential losses following a campaign by consumer group Which?. “Consequential loss” is a term for reasonable additional losses beyond the cost of a ticket – such as taxi fares or hotel bookings – incurred when services are disrupted.

Customers who are stranded when the last train is cancelled could be entitled to compensation for a taxi home, or a hotel room, under the Consumer Rights Act (CRA), which came into force in the rail industry on 1 October 2016. Which? said the industry had not updated its guidelines to reflect the changes, with many companies insisting to customers that they do “not pay consequential loss”.

However, train companies insist that passengers would only be entitled to taxis in “extreme circumstances”, saying that in the vast majority of cases, replacement bus services or other alternative transport is laid on, which would negate a passenger being able to book their own taxi and later claim it back.

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, Network Rail and rail suppliers, said compensation payments had increased fivefold to £74 million in the past five years.

He said: “Train companies are sorry whenever journeys are disrupted and we have been happy to work with government and the regulator to make clearer our customers’ rights. Nevertheless, Which? itself is being misleading suggesting that our customers will always be entitled to compensation for additional losses when this is very unlikely to be the case.”

A ScotRail Alliance spokesman said: “Customers who arrive at their destination 30 minutes or more late are encouraged to claim compensation via our Delay Repay Guarantee. Simply keep hold of your ticket, and claim on our website or mobile app.”

Alex Hayman, Which? managing director of public markets, said: “For over a year train companies have been misleading passengers about their rights to claim for out-of-pocket expenses when they have failed to deliver a good service.

“Train companies can now no longer hide behind misleading terms to avoid paying passengers. They need to go further and proactively inform passengers about their compensation rights.”