Case studies archive
It pays to complain!
Having read one of our previous case studies, a passenger decided to complain to London Midland about his “awful” journey from Birmingham to London and contacted Transport Focus to tell us what happened.
While travelling from Birmingham to London Euston Mr W got stuck on a train at Northampton for 25 minutes before it was announced the driver was waiting for a preceding train. Five minutes later he was told the train was now cancelled because of problems at Watford Junction.
Left stranded with no information as how to continue his onward journey, and with no sign of a rail replacement bus service, Mr W took a taxi at a cost of £31 to Wellingborough. From there he could get a direct train to London St Pancras where he was booked on a Eurostar service.
On arrival at Wellingborough Mr W saw that a train was due to leave but it was running 10 minutes late. The train was then cancelled because of a failure at Kettering and by this time he knew he would not make his Eurostar connection.
Mr W then got on a very overcrowded train which arrived at London St Pancras 15 minutes late, meaning he was two and a half hours late into London. He immediately went to the Eurostar booking office and had to pay an extra charge of £78 to join a later train.
Mr W sent London Midland a completed delay-repay compensation form stating he wished to claim £110 for expenses incurred as a result of delays at two stations on the network.
As a result of his claim London Midland agreed to pay the full amount and Mr W received rail travel vouchers for the full cost of the single tickets from Birmingham to London Euston.
Mr W told us he was pleased with this outcome and the goodwill shown by London Midland and said he wouldn’t have made the claim without reading about our success on another case.
South West Trains goodwill gesture
Mr H was due to catch a South West Trains (SWT) service at 10.54pm between Poole and Southampton Airport Parkway but was alerted at 3pm, via a mobile phone app, that trains had been cancelled.
There was no rail replacement bus service provided and Mr H felt this was unacceptable as he felt SWT had sufficient time between 3pm and 10.54pm to arrange alternative transport.
Mr H also called the Help Point and was told taxis would be available but none arrived so he had to get a taxi home at a cost of £60. SWT declined to refund this cost as it was considered ‘consequential loss’.
We contacted SWT and discovered that the disruption was actually caused by a fatality on the line. This meant that British Transport Police (BTP) had taken over the track and the power was turned off to allow the emergency services to work on the area. The track wasn’t handed back until 8.23pm and SWT was unable to provide alternative transport due to a lack of availability.
However, given the extent of the disruption, as a gesture of goodwill SWT agreed to provide a cheque for £60 to cover the cost of the taxi and Mr H was very happy with this outcome.
East Coast goodwill after airport taxi-dash
Mr B arrived at Newcastle to get the 8.42am East Coast service to Edinburgh, but all trains were either cancelled or severely delayed due to a signal power failure at Durham. Mr B was informed that the earliest time the trains would start running again would be 11.30am. There were no rail replacement bus services and he had a flight to catch at 1.05pm which left him with no alternative other than to travel by taxi which cost £240. East Coast declined to refund the taxi cost as it was classed as consequential loss.
We asked East Coast to reconsider on the basis that there was no alternative for Mr B to get to his destination in time to catch his flight. Following a detailed review of the case, East Coast agreed to refund £240 and Mr B was very happy with the outcome and our support.
Goodwill from Virgin Trains and Arriva Trains Wales
Mrs C travelled from Cardiff to Carlisle for a wedding and booked a pair of Off-Peak Return tickets. Her husband found the outbound journey very hard as they are both pensioners and her husband has heart problems. So on the return leg their son-in-law brought them back by car. This meant they didn’t use the return portion of their tickets. Mrs C called thetrainline.com about a refund and was told that she should have cancelled the tickets before her journey and travelled with single tickets. However, she did not know in advance that their circumstances would change. thetrainline.com maintained that they could not issue a refund because no statutory compensation was due. If both legs of the ticket remained unused then the request could be dealt with by thetrainline.com. However, as the outward leg had been used, any agreement to offer a refund or partial refund would be based on goodwill and could only be issued by the train companies involved.
We therefore contacted Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) and asked for a goodwill gesture as the passengers were unable to use the return ticket from Crewe to Cardiff. ATW agreed to offer a cheque for £17.60, which was the difference between an Anytime Single and Off-Peak Return ticket. We also approached Virgin Trains for their part of the journey and they agreed to offer £140.00 in Rail Travel Vouchers which was half of the total ticket cost.
Naturally, Mr and Mrs C were very happy with the end result.
Difficulties caused by over-running engineering works
Last March Mr T was planning to travel from Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Airport. His train was delayed due to over-running engineering works and there were no alternative trains or transport provided. As Mr T had to get to the airport to catch a flight he booked himself a taxi which cost £65.
When he approached Northern for a refund of his taxi fare he was not happy that they only sent him a one-day travel pass for use on Northern Rail services. He appealed to us and we took the matter up with Northern. They agreed to refund Mr T’s taxi fare.
Compensation problems when travelling with more than one train company
A passenger purchased an annual season ticket between a station in Surrey and London. This journey uses the services of two different train companies.
When he tried to claim compensation for journeys he was delayed on, both companies refused with each one advising him it was the other company’s responsibility. He contacted Passenger Focus for our assistance after nearly six months of trying to resolve the issue directly with the train companies.
Under the terms of their Passenger’s Charter, train companies have to compensate season-ticket holders for poor performance. Compensation becomes more complicated if the passenger’s journey is made on the services of more than one company as performance is usually judged by the services of the company on the route serving the station where the ticket was bought.
He was at first refused because the passenger was delayed on the second train company’s services. Passenger Focus took the matter up with both the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) and the Department for Transport as we shared the passenger’s view that this was unfair. We were pleased to learn that both companies have finally agreed to offer compensation to this passenger and arranged to work together to prevent the situation occurring again in the future.
First Capital Connect’s pricing error
First Capital Connect (FCC) offers an Off-peak Day Return ticket, valid only on its own services from Brighton and local stations to London Bridge. The first train available has always been the 09.00 from Brighton. A passenger discovered one morning that she could no longer buy this ticket and was charged considerably more for a ticket for the same journey or had to travel over half an hour later instead to qualify for the cheaper fare. FCC’s customer service centre was unable to verify what had happened and believed that the conditions of use had changed. The passenger was in touch with our contact team in Manchester immediately after this.
Passenger Focus contacted the train operator’s pricing manager to find out whether or not the conditions of use had been changed. This was not the case. An error had crept into the system. It was put right almost at once and reverted to the original conditions allowing travel at the cheaper rate on the 09.00 train.
The passenger, said: “Thank you for tackling this so quickly and getting back to me with this ‘best possible’ outcome. I had also emailed FCC and spoken to three of their customer service operators this morning all of whom told me ‘It’s changed, so catch the 09.34’. I felt, therefore, this was a lost cause… I have never contacted Passenger Focus before and even if your response had been that the change was correct, at least I would have felt I had received the correct information.”
Ticket refund troubles
Mrs P purchased Advance tickets from Tunbridge Wells to Truro, but could not travel on the date she booked as the line at Dawlish had been breached and nothrough train service was operating. She twice went to the station for a refund but station staff refused on both occasions. She then wrote to First Great Western (FGW) for a refund. FGW referred her to Southeastern Railway (SER) but SER’s Customer Relations also refused to refund the tickets as had the station.
The reason they gave for refusing a refund was that, although through trains were suspended, a bus replacement service was available. In view of her age, the amount of luggage she had and her cross-London transfer, Mrs P did not want to have to change again onto a bus for a 50-mile journey.
We approached both FGW and SER. FGW agreed to issue her with two complimentary first-class tickets and SER offered£14 in Rail Travel Vouchers for their portion of the journey.
Mrs P was extremely happy with the outcome as she makes this journey often to see her family.
Problems caused when a c2c ticket office is closed when it should be open
Ms T frequently buys tickets prior to the date of travel. Due to the fact that she needs tickets to various destinations for work, Ms T requires daily tickets rather than a season ticket. As her plans can change at the last minute, she often has to cancel her journey and apply for a refund at the ticket office the day before she is due to travel.
On 4 February, Ms T arrived at Benfleet station, which is run by c2c, at approximately 8.20pm. Her plans had changed for the following day so she went to the ticket office to get a refund on her tickets for travel on 5 February. Despite it being within opening hours, the ticket office was closed due to staff shortages, so Ms T was unable to apply for a refund (as she had done on previous occasions).
She went back to Benfleet station on the morning of 5 February at approximately 10am to get a refund. However, she was advised that refunds on same-day return tickets can only be processed at the ticket office before 9am on the intended day of travel. She was told that she had to take it up with c2c Customer Relations who would charge a £10 administration fee which she normally avoided by applying for a refund at the station.
Ms T approached Passenger Focus and we advised her that every refund is subject to an administration fee, including those made at a ticket office prior to the date of travel, unless trains are delayed or cancelled. However, as there had been inconsistencies in the way refunds had been processed previously, we asked c2c for a full refund. c2c reiterated that an administration fee is payable for all such refunds. However, as Ms T is a frequent traveller on c2c services, they repaid the value of her ticket in rail vouchers for use on future journeys anywhere on the national network. Ms T was satisfied with this outcome.
Lost and found Railcard on South West Trains
Miss P’s 16-25 Railcard was in her purse which had been mislaid. However, she didn’t know she had lost it.
Her father bought her a ticket incorporating a Railcard discount. On the train she was asked to show her ticket and Railcard and was unable to do so because of the lost purse.
She was required to buy another ticket, but she couldn’t as she didn’t have her purse and could not prove her identity. She was issued a Penalty Fare Notice (PFN) for £46.
Following her journey the purse was returned to her so she could prove she did have a Railcard. She appealed three times against the PFN to the independent appeals body, Independent Transport Associates Ltd (ITAL). On each occasion the appeal was unsuccessful. The reason given was that retrospective proof is not accepted.
We then contacted South West Trains (SWT). Our appeal was made on the basis that she did have a Railcard, but her missing purse prevented her from showing the Railcard and she was not aware that it was missing when she started the journey.
We sent a copy of the Railcard to SWT as proof of her holding a valid Railcard at the time of her journey.
After reviewing the appeal, it was agreed to waive the PFN and refund all charges as well.
Passenger Focus continues to press the industry to maintain an easily-accessible database of Railcards, so that staff members can check passengers’ entitlement to Railcard discounts even when the Railcard is not immediately available.
‘Penalty fared’ on FCC for forgetting Railcard
Miss S was travelling from Sandy, Bedfordshire, to London King’s Cross. She bought her ticket, with a Railcard discount, from a vending machine at Sandy station. She made her purchase at around midday to travel on the 5.15pm service.
When a ticket inspector asked her to present the Railcard and ticket on the train she realised that she had inadvertently left her Railcard in her car. The inspector issued her with a Penalty Fare Notice (PFN).
She tried to explain that when she bought the ticket she had her Railcard with her, but did not have it with her at that moment. She also showed the ticket inspector a number of other tickets in her wallet which had been bought with a Railcard and were marked as inspected, proving that she had her Railcard with her on those occasions.
She sent an appeal letter to the Independent Penalty Fares Appeals Service (IPFAS). They did not receive it so she was sent a letter threatening court action.
Miss S approached us for help and we took up the case on her behalf. We appealed on the basis that at the time of purchase she did have a Railcard which was valid when she made her journey. We also included a copy of her Railcard.
As a result, First Capital Connect agreed to not pursue the PFN or any administration charges.
Arriva Trains Wales ticket refund
Having arrived at Cwmbran station, Ms J spent £18.60 on one adult single and three child returns to Cardiff Central.
Their train was cancelled after they had waited for about 50 minutes. They caught the next train which was then terminated at the next stop, Newport. They were told this was due to flooding on the line and were asked to leave the train.
Newport station was very chaotic and by this stage they were too late for the event they were going to. So they decided to turn back and Ms J went to the ticket office to get a refund.
The customer service assistant told her that they couldn’t give her a refund as a credit card had been used to buy the tickets, so she would need to go to the station where she had bought them.
On a later date she went back to Cwmbran station where she was advised by ticket office staff that she should complete and send in a customer complaint form with all of the tickets that she had bought. Unfortunately she didn’t have all the tickets to send in, so she only received £7.20 worth of rail vouchers.
Ms J came to us and we contacted Arriva Train Wales. As a gesture of goodwill they agreed to give her £11.40 of rail vouchers to make up for the tickets she was originally unable to send in.
Not a very First ‘Class’ TransPennine Express service
We were contacted by Mr T after he had unsuccessfully applied for a refund from First TransPennine Express (FTPE). It was for return travel from Durham to Liverpool.
On the return leg of their trip they got on the train at Liverpool Lime Street and got off at York in order to change to the 5.10pm FTPE train to Durham. They were informed that this service was severely delayed because the train didn’t have a driver. One was eventually found and they reached Durham at 6.48pm – 49 minutes after it was meant to get there.
Mr T is a diabetic and they chose to travel First Class so that they would have access to regular drinks and a biscuit should he need it. Tea or coffee was not available from the York to Liverpool portion of their outward journey, or at any point during their return journey. This was the first time they had chosen to travel First Class as they were influenced by FTPE’s advertising promoting the availability of refreshments when travelling First Class.
We asked FTPE to refund Mr T the return leg of his journey. It agreed and sent him £106 in National Rail Travel Vouchers.
Ticket vending machine problems
Mr C bought Advance tickets online to travel from Leuchars to Heathrow Airport. The tickets cost £78.94. Mr C selected the option to collect his tickets at the station.
When he arrived at Leuchars station, he had problems collecting his tickets from the ticket vending machine (TVM) and had to buy replacement tickets which cost him £130.70.
Following his journey, Mr C asked ScotRail, which runs Leuchars station, to refund him the money he spent buying replacement tickets. He was told that he would not be refunded as the tickets he had initially purchased were Advance tickets and non-refundable. ScotRail didn’t find a fault with their TVM, so would not consider Mr C’s claim.
He then contacted Passenger Focus and we asked ScotRail to refund him the £130.70 he paid to replace his tickets, regardless of whether this was due to a human or system error, as he had now paid twice for the same journey.
ScotRail reviewed Mr C’s case and agreed to give him a cash refund of £130.70 as a gesture of goodwill.
Northern Rail’s unfair Penalty Notice
Mr D boarded the 3.55pm train to Preston from Ansdell with the intention of buying a ticket on board. When he tried to purchase his ticket from the conductor he discovered that the ticket machine was unable to print tickets. The conductor told him to buy a ticket on his return journey at 9pm. When he was leaving Preston station he was approached by two revenue protection officers who recorded his details after threatening to call the police if he didn’t provide them.
This seemed unfair as he was following the instructions he had been given by the conductor. On his way back to Ansdell he purchased a ticket at Preston station at 8.58pm – so he had done as he had been told to do. Additionally, Ansdell is an unstaffed station so he wasn’t initially able to buy a ticket prior to boarding the train.
In hindsight, he admitted that he could have bought a ticket as soon as he got off the train at Preston on the first leg of his journey, but he did not do so because of what he had been told to do by the conductor. It had not occurred to him that he might be penalised.
Passenger Focus asked Northern to refund the Fixed Penalty Notice he had paid as it was not fair that this passenger was penalised due to a failure in Northern’s equipment and communication between staff members. None of this was the passenger’s fault and it was clear that he had no intention of defrauding Northern.
Northern refunded the £86.80 Fixed Penalty Notice and Mr D was very pleased with this result.
Refunds in cash please for cancelled trains
Mr S frequently uses a combination of Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) and First Great Western (FGW) services to travel on business. He set off from Cardiff intending to travel to Bristol for a meeting and during his journey the train was cancelled. He discovered that the replacement bus service would increase his journey time and lead to him missing his meeting in Bristol, so he chose to return by train to Cardiff.
FGW felt that having made part of his journey he was only entitled to compensation under the Delay Repay scheme. This meant that he would be compensated not in cash, but in national rail travel vouchers.
We felt that his complaint should be considered more as an ‘abandoned’ journey, rather than a delayed journey, given that he did not complete it. We appealed to ATW (as the ticket was originally purchased from them) and Mr S received a cheque instead of vouchers.
Peak ticket for an off-peak service
Mr P bought a Day Travelcard from Chiltern Railways to travel during the peak from Warwick Parkway to London Marylebone. When his train was delayed he realised that he could travel on a different train which was about to leave. This train was classed as an off-peak service for which he only needed a cheaper off-peak Travelcard. As this train was about to go he didn’t have enough time to exchange his ticket for the cheaper off-peak version, but was aware that other regular passengers had done this on seeing the delay to the earlier service.
After he’d completed his journey he approached Chiltern for a refund of the difference in cost. This was refused by Chiltern on the basis that he had used his ticket, so he came to Passenger Focus.
It was clear that had he been provided with information about the delay to his train more swiftly, he would have been able to get a refund for his original ticket and then purchase the cheaper off-peak ticket. Through no fault of his own he had paid a peak fare for an off-peak service.
Passenger Focus took his complaint to Chiltern which agreed a refund for the difference in cost. Mr P was pleased with the outcome and said: “I’m very grateful, and seriously impressed by Passenger Focus’s handling of my complaint.”
£3592 Southeastern ticket goes up in smoke
Mr C had lost his £3592 season ticket and his duplicate season ticket in the space of a couple of months – this was because he had a house fire which almost killed his daughter and because of this they had to move out into temporary accommodation. Obviously this was very traumatic and it was in this time that the duplicate season ticket was lost.
Southeastern initially refused to issue a second duplicate, which is when the passenger came to us. We told the company that the ticket was lost after a fire, and helped the customer to supply evidence of the fire, which Southeastern was then happy to accept.
Mr C received a second duplicate, plus £797.70 in additional costs that he had accrued whilst travelling without his season ticket. He was extremely happy with this.
The future introduction of smarter ticketing should make it easier to block and reissue products like these. We have some research on this area which is due to be published in the next few months.
Peak or off-peak?
Passenger Focus was contacted by Mr P after Chiltern Railways were unable to satisfactorily resolve his complaint.
Mr P bought a Day Travelcard to use on a peak service from Warwick Parkway to London Marylebone. His intended train was delayed and he realised that he could take a different service which was about to depart. This alternative service was classed as an off-peak service, so he could have purchased a cheaper Travelcard.
He did not have time to have his ticket refunded and buy the cheaper off-peak version, but he was aware that other regular passengers had done this on seeing the delay to the earlier service. After completing his journey he approached Chiltern for a refund of the difference in cost but this was refused on the basis that the ticket had been used.
Having reviewed his complaint it was clear that had information regarding the delay been given in a more timely fashion Mr P would have been able to have his original peak-time ticket refunded and purchased a cheaper ticket. Through no fault of his own he had paid over the odds for an off-peak service.
Passenger Focus took this up with Chiltern who agreed that a refund for the difference in the ticket cost should have been given, so they sent a cheque directly to the passenger.
Mr P was pleased with the outcome: “I’m very grateful, and seriously impressed by Passenger Focus’s handling of my complaint.”
Car parking charges
Mr L contacted us after ongoing problems with car parking charges at Peterborough. He regularly parked over the weekend, but found that sessions which included days either side of the weekend were overcharged. He had been refunded the difference several times by East Coast, but had then been refused on the latest incidents.
Having reviewed the signs against what he had paid and what East Coast understood the rates to be, it was clear that the signage explanations needed review – but also that the machine was not selling the right tickets. After some communication with Customer Relations it was clear that the issue was simply not being understood.
We raised this with East Coast management and it was agreed that the signs would be revised to make charges clearer. A full review was arranged for all car parks. The passenger was offered a refund on all the overcharges, which Mr L asked them to donate to a local charity. East Coast donated the refund to The Railway Children. We will continue to work with East Coast on this and monitor future complaints of a similar nature.
Nicholas is a jobseeker who has a Jobcentre Plus discount travelcard which entitles him to 50 per cent off ticket prices. He was travelling from Hastings to London to attend a job interview but was told that he could not use the card as his off-peak ticket was already the cheapest available, and that the discount was only available on the next price up. He therefore spent £15.20 instead of the £10.90 he was expecting to.
Nicholas complained to Southeastern via Twitter, but was again told that he couldn’t use the card to get discount on the lowest fare. He was not directed to customer relations – however, he contacted us as he felt that this system did not help those seeking work.
We asked Southeastern to look into the matter, and queried whether he should have been able to buy the cheapest off-peak ticket using his discount. Southeastern confirmed that staff had given the wrong information and that those involved would be rebriefed on the use of this travelcard. Southeastern gave a refund for the additional fare Nicholas paid in rail travel vouchers, rounding it up to £5 as well as giving a goodwill gesture for £10. Nicholas was happy to accept this, and pleased that Southeastern had acknowledged the mistake.