Are you on the right track with your Christmas train travel plans?

Problems on the trains this Christmas and your rights

Is your train running this Christmas or have you been duped?

It looks like thousands of Christmas holiday train travellers have been misled into buying more expensive tickets than they would have done normally.

Transport Focus discovered around 15,000 errors in the Rail Delivery Group timetable database. In just one week in December it found 2,648 invalid journeys listed on the database. This is likely to result in Christmas travellers not being able to make the journeys planned. Tickets have been incorrectly sold for services which will not run due to engineering works.

Virgin train not providing tickets early enough

It also found that in the 12 weeks before Christmas – when regulations say timetables and advance tickets should be released –  that six major rail firms (Virgin, London Midland, South Western, Great Western, Greater Anglia and Southern) had not offered a full range of advance purchase fares. Passengers were therefore forced to buy more expensive tickets. Sky News reported, for example, that only 15% of services were open for reservation on Greater Anglia, and 25% on Virgin Trains. It also reported that Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, has ordered an immediate investigation and said:

“It would be totally unacceptable if any passenger has to pay walk-up fares this Christmas because advance tickets were not available. I expect passengers to be offered the highest standards of customer service and have ordered an immediate investigation into this report. We are delivering the biggest investment in our railways since the Victorian era, and at times those works will cause disruption. I have set out clear plans to bring the operation of track and train closer together that will improve future reliability for passengers.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog, Transport Focus, said:

“Failure to release timetables 12 weeks ahead of travel can mean passengers buy tickets for trains that will not run. That can’t be right. Train operators’ advice is to book early at Christmas to get the best deal, but if the timetable has not been finalised only more expensive ‘on the day’ tickets can be bought. Being forced to change plans because the railway hasn’t got this right will only result in more frustration from passengers. The rail industry must act urgently to make sure the timetable is accurate 12 weeks ahead if passengers are to trust they are on their side.”

Rail firms are passing the blame on to Network Rail for failing to finalise their schedule of engineering work. Twaddle! And no doubt if this is true then rail companies will be claiming from Network Rail far more than they will be paying out to compensate customers. Transport Focus said that the failings could lead to a loss of faith in train companies. I say “EVEN more loss of faith!”

Check with your train operator if the train you have booked is running from National Rail Enquiries.

What do you need to know if you want to complain?
1) From 1 October 2016 rail is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which gives you more rights few know about. If you have been misled into making a decision that you would otherwise not have made then the company is in breach of this law, for starters!

2) Passengers are entitled to have their compensation paid within 14 days, issued by the same method the passenger used to pay for the ticket.

3) Keep your tickets as evidence and take a copy if you have to post them.

4) Make a note of your journey including: Date, time, where travelling from/to and how long you’ve been delayed at the time, before you forget!

5) Make a note of the reason given over the tannoy or on displays, for the delay.  Take a photo of any excuses shown on displays.

6) Check how long you have to claim, it is usually up to 28 days.

7) Passengers can claim for any length of delay. If you suffer repeated delays of less than half an hour or overcrowding due to an unexpected lack of carriages, you might get money back if you take your case to court.

8) Currently, no compensation is offered.

9) Where a service has not been provided with reasonable skill and care, passengers will now have a right to a refund of up to the full ticket price.

10) Put your complaint in writing so that you have a record. Keep a screen capture or print out of a web-based refund claim.

11) You don’t need a third party company to claim for you, just like claiming for delayed airline flights. Instead, do it yourself and get 100% of the refund.

12) If the issue was within the company’s control, be objective, succinct and clear in outlining the issue that occurred.

13) Make it clear what you want to happen and what you will do if you are not satisfied with the response (e.g. take it further through Transport Focus  or if inside London, London Travel Watch  or Small Claims Court.

14) If you are not satisfied with the response, write to the CEO using contact details from the CEOemail.com website. The matter will then be escalated and taken seriously.

15) It may also be possible to claim from your credit card company under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act for non-delivery of services.

Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

Email addresses for CEOs of UK railway companies with links to Delay Repay where applicable.

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

For more on your consumer rights, advice, information, tips and template letters get the book!

 

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

Rail Ombudsman is finally coming down the tracks – consultation closing soon

Press release

Background
Rail passengers will soon get their long-awaited Rail Ombudsman, an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme for disgruntled railway users across the country. An Ombudsman provides an independent escalation process, beyond the railway company, to make decisions on passenger complaints.

 

 

 

Consultation closing soon
The Office of Rail and Road has said that it will introduce an ADR scheme in the rail sector. As this will require changes to rail companies’ Complaints Handling Procedures (CHPs), it is consulting on these changes. The Rail Delivery Group , (working with others as part of an Ombudsman Task Force, has developed proposals which they envisage will see an ADR scheme for rail passengers introduced on a voluntary basis in early 2018.

The consultation on this important issue closes on the 7 November 2017. Yet there has been no coverage in the media nor any push from Government to ensure the general public see this and are given a chance to respond. Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer expert and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! welcomes the consultation but is dismayed at the lack of coverage. “Nearly every commuter has had reason to complain about at least one train journey in recent years! But at the moment very few even know their rights never mind how to take their complaints further!”

Current situation
In 2013 Transport Focus found that almost nine in 10 of passengers eligible for compensation for delays, did not claim. In 2016 it spoke to over 7000 passengers and found that the number claiming compensation has increased to 35 per cent in 2016. The research shows how few people are claiming what they are owed.

Dewdney says that there are other legal rights for complaints in the rail sector but even fewer people are aware of these than those around delays.

“The rail companies all have a passenger charter which links to the National Rail Network guidelines. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 was applied to rail travel from 1st October 2016. You are now entitled to services which must be carried out with reasonable skill and care. If they are not then you should be able to gain redress. Things for which you may gain redress under this Act are:

  • overcrowding
  • not able to use a booked seat
  • claim for consequential losses

If you complain and you think the response is unsatisfactory you can take the matter further. If your journey was outside London then you go through Transport Focus For London and surrounding areas (including those on London Underground or London Overground) contact the London Travel Watch  but decisions made by them are not binding on the rail companies.

Proposed scheme
The proposed Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme would be binding on the rail companies that joined. This means they would be obliged to act upon the ombudsman’s decision.

Marcus Williamson the editor of consumer information website CEOemail.com, who
has been monitoring private ADR schemes since 2014, said “If a Rail Ombudsman is to be effective it must be truly independent and its performance closely monitored by Government. Those running it should have passed a ‘fit and proper person’ test and be fully accountable to the public, as well as to the rail companies.”

Williamson and Dewdney wrote the June 2016 report “Ombudsman Omnishambles” where a number of issues were highlighted regarding the regulation of Ombudsmen. They are concerned that whilst these issues have still not been addressed or resolved by the relevant regulatory bodies, the proposed Rail Ombudsman system could mean that consumers are put at risk again.

What can be done to rectify it?

  • A “Fit and proper person” test, as already required in many business and public sector environments, should be introduced for the trusted “Ombudsman” role and  ADR providers.
  • Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) must implement ongoing monitoring of ADR bodies, rather than rely on an annual review. This should include checking that statements made in the media are true and that the company’s accounts properly reflect the ombudsman’s performance.
  • CTSI, Department for Business, Energy, Industrial Strategy (BEIS) or Ombudsman Association (OA) should provide a means by which the public can lodge complaints about ADR providers and develop procedures by which the relevant body can take the necessary action.
  • The rail ADR/ombudsmen schemes must be established appropriately, effectively and properly.
  • It should be compulsory for rail companies to join the ADR/ombudsman scheme.

ENDS

Further reading for information on misleading consumers, business and the failure of the regulatory bodies:

Ombudsman Omnishambles: New report exposes serious failings in ombudsman approval and oversight

http://CEOemail.com/ombudsman-omnishambles.pdf

The Ombudsman Omnishambles continues… Even on Conflict Resolution Day…

Ongoing Ombudsman Omnishambles

The Retail Ombudsman is no more

ORR Response to consultation by Marcus Williamson and Helen Dewdney