A consumer group has submitted a 'super-complaint' to the rail regulator demanding it takes action to make claiming for train delays easier, after its research found most passengers aren't informed of their rights after a delay and just a third end up making a claim.
Which? has formally requested the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to investigate how passengers are compensated for delayed and cancelled journeys, and has called for the refund process to be made much simpler.
Only certain bodies designated by the Government have the special status to make a 'super-complaint', which can be filed when the organisation concerned – in this case Which? – believes a market is failing consumers. The ORR must respond to the complaint within 90 days.
The move comes after Which? found some 47 million passenger journeys were either cancelled or "significantly" late between March 2014 and March 2015, yet millions of pounds in compensation is going unclaimed each year. See MoneySavingExpert.com's Train Delays guide for how to claim if your train is delayed or cancelled.
What does Which? say is going wrong?
The super-complaint was launched off the back of three different pieces of Which? research identifying problems with the way train delays are handled – an analysis of delays and cancellations, a survey of 7,000 passengers and a mystery-shopping exercise.
Which? found most train companies offer compensation if services are delayed by at least half an hour. But only a third (34%) of passengers surveyed who may have been entitled to something said they actually made a claim, and just 36% remembered being informed of their rights to a pay-out after their last delay.
The mystery shopper exercise involved researchers asking "basic questions" on refunds at 102 train stations.
In just 18% of cases was a "full explanation" of the conditions for claiming given. In 63% of visits researchers were not told they could request their compensation in non-voucher form, such as a cheque – despite changes to the National Rail Conditions of Carriage which came in in July stating passengers can request to be paid compensation in money.
What is Which? calling for?
It's launched a petition calling for rail refunds to be made easier, and so far over 1,700 people have signed it – you can add your name here. Which? is also calling for the following:
- Clear information on how to get a refund for rail delays.
- All train companies offering cash as the first option for compensation.
- Rail companies to be held to account if they fail to encourage passengers to claim refunds.
'Millions left out of pocket'
Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which?, says: "Current proposals to improve compensation for passengers are too far down the track.
"Even if an automatic compensation system was included in all new franchises from tomorrow, it would take until at least 2025 to cover the whole network.
"Millions of passengers are left out of pocket each year, so train companies must do more to put their passengers first and make rail refunds easier."
The ORR says the rail industry has recently taken "positive steps" such as signing up to a code of practice to provide clear information to passengers, but notes that the research shows "passenger awareness of how and when to claim compensation is low".
It adds that it will assess whether more can be done for passengers as it investigates this complaint.
Additional reporting by the Press Association.