Scots rail passengers suffer some of UK’s worst delays

Virgin Train on the East Coast mainline
Virgin Train on the East Coast mainline
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Automatic refunds are being demanded for rail passengers after it emerged those travelling to and from Scotland are among the worst hit by serious delays in the UK.

More than 7 million train journeys
across Britain were significantly delayed last year, consumer watchdogs revealed. The three worst 
performing companies run cross-Border routes.

Despite some improvement, the rail industry still has a way to go in raising passengers’ awareness of when they can claim compensation

DAVID SIDEBOTTOM Transport Focus director

Virgin Trains East Coast was the company with the highest proportion of significant delays, with 3.7 per cent of services between 30 minutes and two hours late. This was followed by Virgin Trains West Coast (2 per cent) and CrossCountry (1.1 per cent).

A separate poll of 8,200 UK adults by Which? found two in five of commuters claim they were not told of their rights to compensation the last time they were entitled to a payout. This increased to more than half (54 per cent) of leisure passengers.

Which? wants travellers to be reimbursed without having to claim if they are held up by more than 30 minutes.

Virgin Trains West Coast pioneered the practice two years ago for passengers booking online, but many 
operators have yet to follow suit.

Passengers lost nearly 3.6m hours because of such delays in 2016-17, according to analysis by Which? of Office of Rail and Road official data. The 7.2m affected passengers were among a total of 1.3 billion carried – or 0.5 per cent of the total.

The delays total included 5,000 trips involving cross-Border operators. Virgin Trains East Coast, which includes Edinburgh-London services, had 1,865 of its 51,101 arriving more than half an hour late – 3.7 per cent.

Second worst was Virgin Trains West Coast, which runs between Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, with nearly 2 per cent of its services significantly late, or 2,008 of 102,884.

Third was CrossCountry, whose routes include Aberdeen-Penzance, with 1 per cent of its trains more than 30 minutes late – 1,144 of 103,443.

ScotRail had 0.1 per cent significantly late trains. Which? said train operators must simplify an “often convoluted” claims system, which it said could involve completing a series of forms and further delays in getting refunds.

The group said: “If train companies fail to do this, automatic compensation should be introduced across the industry, so all passengers who suffer delays and cancellations are automatically compensated where possible.”

Which? managing director of public markets Alex Hayman said delays suffered by passengers are “even more infuriating” when they struggle to claim compensation.

He said: “The progress to date is simply not good enough. If train companies can’t simplify unnecessarily complex claims systems for delayed customers, then government must press for automatic compensation to be introduced across the industry so that people can get the money they are owed.”

David Sidebottom, director of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Despite some improvement, the rail industry still has a way to go in raising passengers’ awareness of when they can claim compensation.”

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents operators, said paper tickets made it nearly impossible to offer automatic compensation.

Chief executive Paul Plummer said: “When things go wrong it should be easy to claim any compensation due.

“As part of the industry’s long-term plan to improve, more operators are introducing automatic refunds.”

Virgin Trains said: “We always want to do the best for our passengers, which is why we make claiming for delays as easy as possible and introduced industry-leading automatic compensation on our West Coast route.”

CrossCountry said: “If things do go wrong we will help our customers claim compensation for their delay.”