Rail Regulator sets out its intention to require rail companies to join a new rail ombudsman

8 February 2018

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has today set out its intention to require all rail companies to participate in the rail ombudsman scheme currently being developed by the Rail Delivery Group in response to discussions led by the Department for Transport.

ORR consulted last autumn on changes which needed to be made to the processes for handling rail complaints to ensure the smooth and effective introduction of the ombudsman scheme. The scheme is expected to begin later in 2018. ORR supports the work RDG has done in this area. They have made good progress with the rail companies on developing the scheme, which they intend will meet the high standards required by the Ombudsman Association and by legislation.

By modifying the licences of rail operators so that they are required to participate in the ombudsman scheme it will not be up to rail companies to decide whether to join or to leave the scheme.  ORR thinks this change is necessary to provide assurance for all passengers that their complaint will always have independent scrutiny if they want this. The future ombudsman will be free and independent, and able to make decisions which are binding on the rail company. It will also drive up standards across the industry.

ORR will publish a further consultation in the spring on taking this forward.

ORR Deputy Director of Consumers, Stephanie Tobyn, commented on the decision:

"Our surveys show that passengers are often dissatisfied with the way their complaints are handled, and this damages their trust in rail companies and the railway industry in general.

"An ombudsman scheme will give passengers real certainty, consistency and clarity in how their complaints are handled; that is why we want every rail company to be required to join it."

Notes to editors

  1. The original consultation and decision letter can be found here: https://orr.gov.uk/rail/consultations/policy-consultations-by-topic/consumer-consultations/changes-to-complaints-handling-guidance 
  2. All rail operators have licences which can be modified by the ORR. In the event that the operators do not agree with the proposed changes they can appeal the decision to the CMA.