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Case studies

Transport Focus deals with around 900 complaints an issues each year.

Read more about some of the times it has been possible for Transport Focus to help passengers successfully resolve their case:

Mr M booked tickets in advance for his wife to travel on Great Western Railway (GWR) services to London on 3 August, returning two days later.

Mrs M uses a mobility scooter (that measures approximately 4cm under GWR’s required measurements) and intended to use this whilst travelling.

Before booking the tickets, Mr M had been advised that he could get a permit for travel with the scooter, but when he contacted GWR to secure this his request was refused. GWR made this decision on the basis of manufacturer sizes, arguing his wife’s scooter is 1cm too long for use on their trains.

Transport Focus escalated this matter on the basis that the passenger has provided measurements which are below those required. We also sent a picture of the scooter with a tape measure next to it, indicating it was 4cm under the requirements.

GWR reviewed the measurements provided by Transport Focus and then called up the manufacturer who confirmed that the approximate size cited is actually accurate and, as such, the scooter should be larger than the dimensions GWR permits.

Although GWR felt it had made the right decision when handling this case initially, upon review it decided to issue the scooter permit as the customer had travelled before on the scooter without incident, and the manufacturer’s sizes given were very close to the guidelines. As a result, Mrs M was able to travel on her booked tickets and to use her mobility scooter.

GWR also explained that safety is a priority and it is necessary to set parameters to work within. A permit allows the operator to be confident that the scooter will not tip when being driven up the ramp onto the train. This potential hazard is a concern for GWR as it uses a variety of different trains.

Two separate ticket inspections failed to spot that Mr F was missing part of his ticket as he travelled from Norwich to London Liverpool Street.

At Liverpool Street, staff spotted that part was missing and he was given a Penalty Fare Notice (PFN).

Naturally Mr F felt this was unfair as he had showed staff his tickets prior to boarding, and if the issue had been picked up he could have resolved it without getting a PFN.

He appealed this penalty, but the appeal was rejected. We stepped in to say that, as the tickets had been checked twice, this issue should have been identified earlier, preventing it from escalating.

Greater Anglia agreed to refund the penalty, once the passenger paid it.

Mrs D was due to travel from Oxford Road in Manchester to Chester. As this passenger boarded the train, she realised she had left her shopping on a seat at Oxford Road station.

When she reached Chester, Mrs D called the train company Northern, which manages Oxford Road station. She was advised that her shopping had been handed in at Oxford Road Station and that Northern would hold onto it for 90 days, so Mrs D could collect it within that timeframe. She was then provided with a Northern reference number.

Mrs D travelled to Oxford Road station to collect her property. However, upon her arrival, she was informed her shopping was not there and that it could possibly be at Manchester Piccadilly station. She provided station staff with the reference number she had been given by Northern but was told by station staff that they “don’t deal with references”.

Mrs D then travelled to Manchester Piccadilly. Here she was informed by station staff that her shopping wasn’t here either, but that it could possibly be at Oxford Road station. They likewise advised that at Manchester Piccadilly staff also don’t deal with reference numbers!

Mrs D complained to Northern (aware she had been assured that her items would be kept for 90 days, but that this clearly was not the case). As she did not receive a response from Northern’s complaints team, she sent a chaser. However, Northern did not respond to that either.

Following our escalation on her behalf, Northern confirmed that Mrs D’s items were no longer at Oxford Road station because they had been disposed of already.

We questioned why Mrs D’s shopping had been disposed of sooner than the 90 days. Northern stated the station has a limited amount of space to keep lost property, and that due to an influx of items handed in they felt they had to dispose of items before the 90-day deadline. Northern also confirmed that it is currently in a backlog with (all) customer enquiries and complaints – hence why the passenger was not responded to.

We pushed for Northern to compensate Mrs D for her items and for the cost of her travel in pursuit of her lost property. Northern agreed to send her a cheque for her train tickets and for the cost of the items (using her bank statement as proof of purchase).

Mrs D thanked us for our intervention.

Miss J has recently come to rely on a rollator – a mobility aid similar to a walking frame but with four wheels – and is unable to walk without it. Virgin Trains’ accessibility policy meant she wasn’t allowed use the wheelchair space on its services but due to the nature of her disability she was unable to use any other seats.

Miss J was really frustrated that she was no longer able to use Virgin Trains’ services to travel to see family and friends. She complained to Virgin Trains as she could not understand why it would not allow her to use the wheelchair spaces provided.

Virgin Trains apologised but advised that it was unable to pre-book these spaces for anything other than a wheelchair or scooter. It explained this is because a rollator can be folded while wheelchairs/scooters cannot.

Miss J was unhappy with Virgin Trains’ response, so she contacted Transport Focus to see if we could help.

Although it was not in breach of any regulation or its own Disabled Person’s Protection Policy, we contacted Virgin Trains and explained that, due to the nature of her disability, Miss J was unable to use standard seats. We asked that it review the case again to see if an alternative arrangement could be made.

Virgin Trains suggested if Miss J booked assistance prior to travel, the Journey Care team could reserve her a priority seat and a member of staff could assist in putting away her rollator. They could then bring this back to her on arrival at her destination. The only issue with this is that she would be unable to access her rollator throughout the journey if she needed to use the onboard facilities.

We went back to Virgin Trains to explain this and Virgin Trains decided to allow Miss J to use the wheelchair space for her rollator for all future bookings. It also liaised with Journey Care which manages assisted travel to ensure that Miss J’s requirements were met.

We informed Miss J of the outcome and she was really happy with the result of our intervention. We were pleased to see that Virgin Trains took into consideration Miss J’s personal circumstances as this enabled her to travel once again on their services.

Ms B dropped her son, Mr B, at Bromsgrove station where he normally buys a ticket from the ticket office. On this occasion, the ticket office was closed and Mr B was unable to buy a ticket from the machine as it only accepts cards. Mr B only had cash on him so he had to board the train without a ticket.

Mr B was travelling to Five Ways station so he had to change at Birmingham University where he tried to purchase a ticket. There were no ticket vending machines inside the station and as he was unable to get through the barriers, Mr B was unable to buy a ticket here either. He boarded the train to Five Ways where he was issued with a Penalty Fare Notice costing £30 because he did not have a ticket. He explained to staff that he attempted to purchase a ticket on departure, and when he changed at University station, but was unable to.

Mr B later appealed the fine. However, this was rejected on the basis that there were facilities to purchase a ticket on departure. His mother contacted Transport Focus on her son’s behalf as she felt the decision to uphold the fine was unfair.

We investigated the case with London Midland Prosecutions and could confirm that the ticket office was closed and that the ticket vending machines only accept cards. This information should and could have been checked by the staff member who issued the penalty fare, and if they had done so it could have saved Ms B and her son from having to go through this process.

London Midland agreed to waive the penalty fare and refund the £20 Mr B paid. They also fed back the issues Transport Focus raised with regards to staff checking the ticket purchasing facilities available before issuing a penalty fare. They understood that not everyone, especially those under the age of 18, will have a bank card to purchase a ticket. Both Mr and Ms B were happy with the outcome.

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