Dissatisfied rail commuters have a new place to go when it comes to complaining about train companies in the UK. A new ombudsman service has been set up to deal with issues that are not considered to have been properly resolved.
If the ombudsman upholds the complaint of the passenger then its binding powers will come into effect over the train company. This is good news for those who have become frustrated with the state of rail services in the UK, but it doesn’t solve all the problems.
For example, complicated pricing systems and ever-increasing fares will not be tackled by the ombudsman. This means that commuters wishing to bypass such issues would be better off finding a different way to get to work, with coach services an obvious alternative.
What the ombudsman will focus on, however, is responses from operators that are deemed not to solve a dispute in the 40-day allotted period. It’s a free service at the point of use, as it’s being funded by the train companies themselves, who have signed up to abide by its rulings.
Data released by the Office of Road and Rail shows that of those who complained about rail operators in 2017, fewer than half believed they received an adequate response. Despite this widespread failure to deal with unsatisfied passengers, only 1.1 per cent of complaints were sent for appeal.
Delayed trains and passenger compensation will be the two biggest areas that the ombudsman deals with. So far in 2017-18, over £80 million has been paid out for delays and that figure is likely to rise dramatically in the wake of chaos associated with new timetables.
Interestingly, only 39 per cent of those eligible for compensation claimed for their delays. This is according to official figures from the Department for Transport, which was told by many passengers that it was not worth the time and effort to get the money back.
Andrew Jones, the new rail minister, said: “This is a significant step forward for passengers’ rights. This independent ombudsman will make sure passengers are heard and that they get a fair deal when train companies fall short.
“Rail firms must take this opportunity to improve their complaints process and to increase customer satisfaction.”
Photo credit: iStock/Laurence Dutton