Information given to passengers during train delays is improving but we need more transparency from the rail industry

7 August 2015

7 August 2015

Stephanie TobynStephanie Tobyn, ORR's consumer deputy director, on what we are doing to empower passengers with right information during disruptions.

In the information age consumer expectations and aspirations are constantly evolving. Parcel deliveries can be tracked and confirmed. Delivery driver names are provided as well as photographs verifying the precise location of the delivered item. Flights can be tracked in real time and passengers are able to receive early notification of service changes by email and text. Bus, coach and taxi services are similarly capable of providing real time and often personalised information. Just as consumer expectations of other services are rising, consumers are seeking new standards and service improvements from the rail industry, making a strong customer focus even more vital for train operators to meet passenger needs, better manage demand and deal with changing travel patterns including unexpected disruption.

We all know that travel delays and disruption can cause significant anxiety, frustration and uncertainty. In January 2015, the rail industry committed to improving the way it provides passengers with information during disruptions and delays, by setting out a 40-point action plan.

ORR has been working with the train companies to develop this action plan to ensure it includes improvements that will enable passengers to get the right information, at the right time, when services are disrupted. Over the past few months, we have seen that all train operators are taking positive steps to provide better passenger information. In fact, the industry has completed nearly half of the 40 actions so far. The challenge now is to keep up the pace and complete further important actions by October.

The industry has also committed to carrying out a new passenger survey (in autumn and winter of 2015) to assess whether passengers have noticed the improvements. This will offer people who have experienced travel disruption an opportunity to record their experiences regarding the consistency, accuracy, and timeliness of the information that they received.

We are keen to see the action plans made available for passengers and the public to see so that rail customers understand the measures being taken by industry to improve information. The industry has committed to doing this no later than October 2015. This transparency will help to improve passengers' trust and confidence in the industry and allow train companies to establish closer relationships with their customers.

Recent examples of improvements we have seen include:

  • Train companies having been actively addressing the problems that occur when there is a major disruption, such as storms or when temporary timetables have to be introduced at short notice. Previously, these late changes didn't get picked up in journey planners or on station information screens and caused real frustration for passengers. Now these disruptions should be prominently displayed on website banners and within smartphone apps in some cases.
  • Rail companies have also increased efforts to inform passengers that they may be entitled to compensation when their train is delayed. ORR is pushing the industry to make sure that the compensation forms and procedures are easy to find on websites and where possible on trains and at stations.

At ORR, we will continue to drive the industry to deliver better passenger information. The findings of the industry research should enable us to fully understand whether individual operators are delivering on their passenger information promises.

We will report again on the rail industry's progress in April 2016.