ORR acts to help rail passengers get compensation for train delays

30 March 2016

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has looked at how train operators tell their passengers about compensation schemes, and how easy it is for passengers to claim compensation payments for train delays.  We met with all train operators and reviewed their claims processes, websites and social media content.

Stephanie Tobyn

We found that written information on company websites is generally accurate, but can at times be hard to find. Also, communication with passengers on trains and at stations is not always reliable. It’s often left to the discretion of staff rather than having them follow clear procedures and training.

Passenger awareness generally is also too low. Some passengers who are aware of their entitlement do not claim because they think the payments will be too small. In other cases, it’s because they find the process just too complex to cope with.

In our response to a recent super-complaint from the consumer body Which? we have made seven recommendations to improve the situation:

  1. We want to see a national promotion this autumn to raise passenger awareness of compensation procedures. The campaign should be accompanied by better training of train and station staff.
  2. Train operators should provide clearer information about compensation as a condition of their licences to operate. We will use our powers to ensure that they inform passengers at the time of disruption, following their licence conditions.
  3. Passengers should expect consistent information. We recommend that the Department for Transport reviews requirements placed on train operators over how and when passengers are informed about compensation.
  4. Train and station staff should be trained to provide clearer, accurate information. Our ‘mystery shopper’ research found that some staff failed to provide basic information while some provided wrong information.
  5. Train operators should use clearer, ‘plain English’ language when writing on their websites or in leaflets for passengers. We’re working with them to make relevant changes right away.
  6. Compensation procedures should be made more consumer-friendly by increasing the use of online systems and making passengers aware that they may need to retain tickets to make a successful claim.
  7. Monitoring and transparency of information should be improved. We will work with governments and train operators to quantify the ‘compensation gap’ – the difference between the maximum theoretical compensation payments and the amount actually claimed. We will also work with the relevant consumer bodies and train companies to produce more regular research.

We are actively engaging with train companies to make sure these improvements are delivering for passengers. We’re also working with Transport Focus to research the views of 8000 passengers to understand whether they’re aware they can claim compensation - and if they have claimed, what their experience has been like.

We are committed to ensuring that passengers understand that they may be eligible to claim compensation when their train is delayed and to ensuring that the process for claiming is simple and easy to use.