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ORR backs introduction of Rail Ombudsman

VTEC 43238 at Peterborough on July 26. RICHARD CLINNICK.

Despite train operating companies improving their information provision and delay compensation, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) says complaints handling must improve. To this end, it now supports the introduction of a Rail Ombudsman to provide a better service to passengers and resolve disputes.

In its Measuring Up report published on July 26, the ORR’s research shows that although passengers were broadly happy with the ease of making a complaint and with the politeness of staff, 59% were unhappy with the outcome of their complaint and 52% with the way their complaint was handled.

The number of complaints rose by 8% compared with a year ago (to more than 500,000), and the ORR says 12 out of the 24 train operators studied did not provide a full response to 95% of complaints they received within the required 20 working days.

However, the ORR also says that successful compensation claims have risen by around ten percentage points in the past year. Companies are also providing better information on how to choose, buy and use tickets (although the ORR notes that improvement is needed, such as for group fares). And 12 operators guarantee to refund extra costs to passengers who buy tickets from a machine without realising there are cheaper fares available.

ORR Director of Railway Markets and Economics John Larkinson said: “We are seeing that the industry is improving customer service in some areas, such as compensation for delays, but the quality of service when dealing with passenger complaints needs to be better. This is why we are supporting setting up an Ombudsman, and will also continue working with industry to keep offering a better service to passengers.”

The top reasons for complaints are punctuality and reliability (26.5%), online ticket sales (7.3%), onboard facilities (7.1%), ticket buying facilities (7%) and ticketing and refunds policy (6.8%).

  • For more on this, read RAIL 832, published on August 2.

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