Transport User Voice – December – The changing landscape of rail complaints

29 November 2018

Rail passengers now have somewhere they can go with a range of unresolved complaints, following the launch of the first-ever Rail Ombudsman.

Transport Focus welcomes the establishment of an independent body with powers to impose binding decisions on deadlocked complaints between passengers and train companies. 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 drive improvements by train companies, inform government policy and the work of the rail regulator.

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 – creates a clear incentive for all train operators to transform the lacklustre way many of them handle passenger complaints. Transport Focus also expects the existence of this new scheme will help drive wider efforts to improve rail services overall, so that fewer consumers have any cause for complaint in the first place.

Transport Focus will track the work and effectiveness of the new scheme very closely, to make sure the Rail Ombudsman delivers measurable benefits for passengers.

What does the new scheme mean if I want to make a complaint?

In the first instance, you must still complain directly to the train company involved. Alternatively, you can consider making an initial complaint to the train company using the disputes resolution service Resolver, a free complaint service that Transport Focus now works in partnership with.

Many types of unresolved complaints will be ‘in scope’ for The Rail Ombudsman, but not all.

For matters that are in scope for the Rail Ombudsman, and where you have received a response from the train company and remain unhappy about an issue with a journey made after 26 November 2018, you can contact The Rail Ombudsman to raise your complaint.

Transport Focus will 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.
  • to help passengers with issues that fall outside scope of the Ombudsman scheme, building on its long track record of resolving complex complaints and driving better complaint handling across the rail industry.

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 per cent of passengers who turn to Transport Focus say they are satisfied with the outcome achieved.

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