When to claim for a late train? Most have no idea

Passenger rights are complicated by operators running different compensation systems. Picture: Robert Perry
Passenger rights are complicated by operators running different compensation systems. Picture: Robert Perry
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RAIL passengers must be given more information about claiming for disruption after more than three in four were found to be unaware of their rights, rail regulators says today.

The impetus for improvements was underlined by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) also announcing that Britain’s railways carried a record 402.8 million passengers between October and December, up 4.5 per cent on 2012.

A survey by the ORR, the consumer law-enforcement authority for the railways, showed more than 75 per cent of passengers “do not know very much” or “nothing at all” about their rights to a refund or compensation when trains are delayed or cancelled.

A similar proportion said train operators did little or nothing to actively provide such information during disruption.

The ORR found more than two in three passengers never claimed for disruption and urged the introduction of a new code of practice.

Passenger rights are currently complicated by train operators running different compensation systems. Some of these do not pay out if delays are out of their control, such as those caused by extreme weather or suicides. Delays of less than 30 minutes do not count.

ORR chair Anna Walker said: “We want to see that passengers are treated fairly, receive the quality of service they pay for and, when this is not the case, can hold their service providers to account.”

Passenger Focus, the independent watchdog, said more radical reform was required.

It called for compensation to be paid in cash, and for season ticket holders to be compensated for suffering regular delays under the 30-minute threshold.

Acting chief executive David Sidebottom said: “This is a problem that needs addressing. The top issues raised by passengers regularly include delays, refund conditions and compensation.”

Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer rights group Which?, said: “We found one in ten passengers had cause to complain on their last train journey, yet three-quarters of them didn’t.”

ScotRail, which is in the last year of its ten-year franchise, said it had almost doubled annual compensation payouts by collecting passengers’ details during severe disruption “for over a year”.

Its spokeswoman said: “During the hurricane winds that closed the railway in December, we offered full refunds or extensions to season tickets over and above the terms of our passengers’ charter.”

Virgin Train, said it highlighted how to claim on train posters and Twitter and that during severe delays, staff took passengers’ details so they could be sent compensation without having to claim.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents the industry, said there had been a £3 million rise in compensation paid to passengers for delays in a year, despite punctuality being near record levels.

An East Coast spokesman claimed that its compensation scheme was “one of the most responsible” and most widely advertised in the rail industry.