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Most complained-about train firms revealed as complaints rise

Rail complaints have increased by 6.6% following the timetable chaos this summer, while Hull Trains has been revealed as the most complained-about rail operator. 

Statistics from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) released today show that there were 29.9 complaints per 100,000 journeys taken on railways in Great Britain between April and June this year, compared to 28.1 complaints per 100,000 journeys during the same period in 2017. 

 An increase in complaints about reliability, punctuality and timetabling contributed to the overall rise. Many rail passengers faced weeks of chaos this summer after Northern, TransPennine Express and Govia Thameslink – which runs Great Northern, Southern and Thameslink services – all made timetable changes. 

There was also a 27% increase in appeals decided by a transport watchdog, which the ORR attributes to greater passenger awareness of the schemes. The independent watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch can review cases if the passenger's initial complaint to a rail firm isn't solved to their satisfaction.

See our Train Delays guide for full info on claiming for travel disruption.

Which are the most complained-about firms?

Hull Trains had the highest rate of complaints, while Heathrow Express saw an 80% surge in customers complaining between April and June this year, compared to the same period in 2017. Meanwhile, London Overground was the least complained-about service with just one complaint for every 100,000 journeys. 

See how each train operator fared below:


Complaints by train operator

Train operator Number of complaints per 100,000 journeys Percentage change (1)
1. Hull Trains 261 60% increase
2. Grand Central 227 39% increase
3. Virgin Trains West Coast 191 21% increase
4. Caledonian Sleeper 123 37% increase 
5. London North Eastern Railway 103 7% increase
6. Great Western Railway 61 58% increase
7. Arriva Trains Wales 61 42% decrease
8. CrossCountry 59 40% increase
9. Heathrow Express 50 80% increase
10. TransPennine Express 50 21% increase
11. East Midland Trains 44 15% decrease
12. Southeastern 37 34% increase
13. Greater Anglia 31 47% decrease
14. c2c 26 18% increase
15. Northern  26 63% increase
16. ScotRail 23 5% decrease
17. Chiltern Railways  21 12% decrease 
18. West Midlands Trains 21 34% decrease
19. Govia Thameslink Railway 20 23% increase
20. South Western Railway 19 14% decrease
21. Merseyrail  6 28% decrease
22. TfL Rail 2 45% increase
23. London Overground 1 18% decrease

(1) From April-June 2017.

What do the train firms say?

A Heathrow Express spokesperson said: "We are very sorry that the experience of some of our customers did not meet the standards rightly expected from Heathrow Express. We respond to every customer complaint and aim to understand where our service fell short so that we can prevent this from happening again."

A spokesperson for Hull Trains said: "Having consistently ranked as one UK's best train operating companies over the last 18 years, these figures are disappointing for everyone at Hull Trains. Clearly, we let our customers down during this period and we are very sorry that this was the case.  

"The number of complaints we received in Q1 2018/19 follows an unavoidable and challenging period of service reliability associated with train faults in the aftermath of the Beast from the East. As the UK's smallest train company, we need four trains to fulfil our timetable. Three of our trains were damaged during this time and, as a consequence, we were forced into operating a contingency timetable.

"In Q2 2018/19, our service reliability improved significantly. We also have invested £60 million in five new trains, which will be delivered next year. These state-of-the-art trains will be some of the most technologically advanced and modern on Britain's railways – improving our services further and giving us greater resilience during service disruption.

"Whilst we are very disappointed with this research, there are some positives to draw from the findings with Hull Trains receiving the second highest praise rate in Q1 2018/19. Our score was more than 65% higher than the company in third place."

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