Clear information vital for transport users during coronavirus

26 March 2020

The country is in lockdown but, as a key worker, how do I get into work and back? My season ticket is useless now I’m in lockdown, so how can I reclaim some of the money?

Transport Focus and London TravelWatch continue to focus on passenger issues arising from travel restrictions intended to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Significantly fewer people are now travelling, heeding the instruction to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. But many key workers still have to travel, and passengers who can no longer make journeys need to know their rights.

Whether people are at home or still travelling, clear up-to-date information is key. Transport Focus has been monitoring the information provided by the transport industry to users in two areas:

  • information about how to claim refunds on tickets they no longer need
  • information about the temporary, reduced timetables, so people who do still need to travel can do so safely.

We welcomed the announcement that passengers with Advance tickets purchased before 23 March can claim a full refund. But the advice provided by train companies since has not always been correct, or reflected the need to avoid any unnecessary journeys. Some have been corrected as the week went on, but here are two examples:

  • Transport for Wales advised passengers who bought a ticket from a ticket office to return to the station to claim their refund
  • Chiltern Railways says it is ‘exploring options for alternatives’ to claiming refunds at stations, but doesn’t go on to assure passengers who hang on that they won’t get less back as a result.

While normal terms and conditions still apply for most season ticket holders, in West Yorkshire monthly and annual MCard holders have been assured their ticket validity will be extended. This best practice ‘pause and resume’ option on their rail and bus season tickets means passengers will not lose out.

Transport companies have had to respond quickly to the tightening restrictions and reduce their timetables to match demand and staff availability. It’s good to see some transport operators, including Go North West, seeking feedback from key workers and asking them to get in touch if they can change their bus schedules to help them make essential journeys. Elsewhere, Transport for Wales has offered NHS workers free travel until the end of April.

Our monitoring shows information about timetable changes has, in the circumstances, been largely clear and well-signposted online, but there are exceptions.  For example:

  • Great Western Railway’s website says online timetables ‘should all be updated in the next seven to ten days’ making it unclear whether journey planners are up to date and can be relied upon now.

On the other hand, examples of good practice include Southeastern confirming journey planners are up to date, with timetables available to download and a helpful map showing service frequencies.

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