ORR urges sweeping reforms on accessibility and compensation

16 July 2019

  • Assisted travel reforms include improving the reliability of assistance for passengers, a shorter notice period for booking assistance and redress when things go wrong.
  • ORR recommends that train operators are required to tell passengers of their right to compensation during a journey and settle claims in 20 days.

Passengers will be able to claim compensation more easily when their train is delayed, and the rail network will be more accessible to disabled passengers, under proposals submitted to the Williams Rail Review by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

There were 5.3 million delay compensation claims made over the past year and research in 2018 also revealed that only a third (35%) of eligible passengers claimed compensation, totalling some £81 million. There were almost 1.3million booked passenger assists in 2018-2019. This is an increase of 2% compared with the previous year.

In a set of proposals today welcomed by Keith Williams, Chair of the Independent Review of the rail industry established by the Secretary of State for Transport in September 2018, we include:

Providing help to passengers who need assistance

Radical reforms to transform accessibility include requiring train operators to cut the notice required for booking assistance from the current maximum of 24 hours to 10pm the day before travel by April 2020 and then making further reductions until it is two hours prior to travel by April 2022.

In addition, train operators must improve the reliability of the assistance all passengers receive – whether or not they book in advance.

Short terms reforms also include requiring train operators to ensure that staff are better trained to provide assistance, provide redress to passengers when booked assistance fails, adopt common branding for assisted travel services and make it easier to plan journeys by improving the quality of information available to passengers.

In the longer term, the ORR wants to see reforms including a review of funding for accessibility, the use of commercial incentives to maximise the number of journeys, and creating a system to enable passengers to buy tickets and book assistance in a single transaction.

Simplifying Compensation

The ORR’s suggested reforms to compensation could see new rules to raise passengers' awareness of their rights by requiring train operators to tell passengers of their rights to compensation while they are on a delayed train and when they get off it. The rules would also require companies to process compensation claims in 20 working days, and publish data on how well they are meeting these standards, and to accept claims from Third Party Intermediaries which meet a new code of conduct.

The ORR recommends that operators automate their claims processes to the greatest possible extent; the various companies’ delay repay schemes are harmonised; and Transport Focus leads a national awareness-raising programme.

John Larkinson, ORR Chief Executive, said:

"Despite improvements made by the industry, the quality of assistance provided to passengers who need it falls below society's expectations. And passengers are still not claiming the compensation they are entitled to when trains are delayed.

"A substantial change is needed and we look forward to continue working with the Williams Rail Review to help bring this about."

Measuring Up – Consumer Report

Today we have also published our annual consumer report, Measuring Up. This details where we have already secured improvements for the benefit of passengers, what actions we have taken, and compares performance across train companies in important areas such as passenger information and complaints handling.

The report describes enforcement action taken in the last year, alongside examples of where we have worked with companies to ensure that they comply with rules around complaint handling, accessibility, passenger information and also consumer law.

The report also summarises our planned work in the interests of rail passengers for the year ahead; draws particular attention to the work needing to be done in the areas of compensation and accessibility, further supporting our calls for reform in these areas.

It also highlights a number of cases where we are working to establish whether major improvement work at stations was carried out in accordance with industry standards on accessibility or whether the parties involved were granted approval for such standards to be relaxed.

Notes to editors