Covid travel: watchdog calls for better information for rail passengers

28 October 2020

Providing clear and accurate information to passengers has always been a priority. Traditionally it was about ensuring people had accurate information on fares and on services, especially during periods of disruption. But since Covid-19, it has also been about providing reassurance to passengers, so they know what to expect and enable them to travel with confidence.

Back in June we published an assessment of train company websites. This looked at the advice given on things like face coverings, social distancing measures and cleaning. The Department for Transport found this useful and asked us to conduct a second audit, taking account of our earlier findings. We therefore amended our questions and marking criteria to help pick up on some of the nuances we highlighted first time around.

We checked websites for the second time at the end of September – for the sake of completeness we covered all train companies. We sent our findings to operators in early October. Many train companies listened to our feedback and made changes. Thanks again to all those who responded positively to our challenges.

The summary of what we found can be seen here. This represents a snapshot-in-time rather than an assessment of ‘today’. So much has already happened since we did the checks – as well as train companies making improvements, we’ve also seen the introduction of the new tiers and all the new restrictions that these bring. It is a very fast-moving environment right now.

In carrying out the checks we also found a number of common or generic issues that we felt worthy of more attention. This included the clarity of information about local lockdowns (even more important now that we have the new tiers), making it clear about refund rights if you want to change travel plans to/from lockdown areas, what to do if trains are too full to board and what assistance is available to passengers with a disability. Needless to say we also found some additional issues that we hadn’t included in the original checks. We are pleased to see that the government has since announced the removal of admin fees for passengers on advanced tickets if Covid-19 restrictions later affect their journey.

We’ve raised these issues with train companies and the Department for Transport. We’ll also be adding these to our list, ready for our next round of checks.

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