Transport Focus welcomes the announcement of a new Rail Ombudsman

26 November 2018

Transport Focus welcomes the establishment of The Rail Ombudsman – an independent body with powers to impose binding decisions on unresolved complaints between passengers and train companies.

The new scheme provides a clear incentive for all train operators to transform their complaint handling systems. It should also help drive wider efforts to improve rail services so that fewer consumers have any cause for complaint in the first place.

Commenting on the new Rail Ombudsman Anthony Smith, chief executive of independent passenger watchdog Transport Focus said:

“At last rail passengers will join other consumers in having access to free, independent, binding dispute resolution. The Rail Ombudsman builds on years of successful work done by Transport Focus to help passengers resolve complaints, and to feed back from this experience to inform government policy and the work of the rail regulator. It boosts consumer power and brings rail into line with other industries.

“We expect the ability of the Rail Ombudsman to impose binding decisions to resolve complaints – and the fact it can charge train companies fees for doing this – will drive improvements to the way most train operators handle passenger complaints.

“We will track the work and effectiveness of the new scheme very closely to make sure the Rail Ombudsman delivers measurable benefits for passengers.”

Transport Focus has a long track record of resolving complex complaints and driving better complaint handling across the rail industry. For example, responding to a growing number of passenger complaints over penalties applied for making a genuine mistake for not having a valid fare or ticket, Transport Focus published research highlighting poor and unfair practices.

Further advocacy secured new legislation that came into effect on 6 April 2018 which gave assessment panels evaluating such disputes discretion to look beyond the rules and regulations to consider mitigating circumstances.

Notes for editors

Many types of unresolved complaints will be ‘in scope’ for The Rail Ombudsman, but not all. For full information on the role and operation of The Rail Ombudsman visit the scheme website.

Transport Focus will continue to help passengers with issues that fall outside scope of scheme.

Transport Focus expects to handle an estimated 7000 rail complaint appeals in the year ending March 2019 including many about how well – or otherwise – train operators handle passengers who have faced a problem. Around 70% of passengers who turn to Transport Focus say they are satisfied with the outcome achieved.

Transport Focus will also continue to offer passengers information on how to complain effectively, and to provide feedback on complaint handling issues to the rail industry, government and regulators.

For further information please contact the press office: 0300 123 2170

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