Railways delays - Regulator to make delay refunds an easier win

(01/04/2016) With the Easter break fully upon us, vast swathes of the great British public will be taking to our transport network. And many will experience delays. Delays that will infuriate them

Rail Delays In A Station Resized

But at least one part of our transport infrastructure is trying to make it easier to get some form of refund – the railways. Last week the Office for Rail and Road regulation (ORR) told train-operating companies that they had to make it easier for delayed passengers to get refunds.

The ORR has even called for a national advertising campaign to increase passenger awareness of their statutory rights to compensation.

The ORR’s suggestions follow a ‘super complaint’ made by consumer group Which? last December. This called for an investigation into how rail staff and companies go about the process of offering refunds for delayed services.

According to the super complaint, there were 47 million delayed train journeys in 2015 that would be eligible for some form of compensation – and yet rail companies and station staff rarely give a full explanation on how and when you might be entitled to a refund.

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So what’s going wrong?

  • Staff aren’t telling you what you need to know. Probably be cause they don’t know or aren’t sure themselves  
In an ORR mystery shopping exercise, the regulator inspected 22 different train operators. They quizzed staff about how long a delay needed to be before you could claim, whether you can claim refunds in cash, how to claim and how much you could be owed. 70 per cent of those questioned provided an incorrect response to at least one answer.

Staff at three train firms failed to provide accurate info every time. The ORR says it has contacted the individual train companies to improve this, and will carry out more mystery shopping trips to check whether they have.

  • Passengers aren’t claiming for delayed train journeys when they’re entitled to  

A shocking four fifths of passengers don't claim when they are entitled to a part or full refund due to delays. The ORR discovered this by looing at how many delays there were, and compared that with the total amount of compensation claimed. The sums speak for themselves.

  • Train companies are not doing enough to let you know when you might be owed money back

The ORR stops short of suggesting that train operators are deliberately making it difficult to claim or hiding information about how to get compensation, but there is clearly an issue that some firms are worried about promoting compensation too much as it could suggest they’re not serious about being on time in the first place

One operator even told the ORR it was not in its best interests to promote compensation, as it cost the company and didn't improve performance, which was the leading driver of passenger satisfaction.

What the ORR wants:

• Better-trained staff that are more aware of passengers’ compensatory rights.
• Better, clearer, more easily accessible claims

• A national campaign by train companies to promote awareness of rules around delayed train compensation.
• The Department for Transport to force all future franchise holders to inform passengers more clearly of their rights at the time of delay (eg handing out compensation forms or by statin and platform announcements).

How you can claim for a train delay
The rules officially state you can only claim if it's the train company's fault and after an hour's delay, but in practice most train companies have a policy of paying out after a delay of 30 minutes regardless of the reason.

National Conditions of Carriage
Put simply, this is the agreement for how the railways operate and how you are entitled to compensation if something goes wrong.

If your train is delayed for over an hour, you are entitled to a 20% refund on a single ticket or 10% on a return ticket. If you choose not to travel because the train is delayed or cancelled, then you can apply for a complete refund from the train station or submit your tickets back to the train company. Remember if possible to have some proof of when the train was delayed.

Check your train company
Different train companies have different rules as the compensations levels I’ve already mentioned are the minimum standards set by Government. Over 50% of train companies will give you compensation if your train is later than 30 minutes behind its scheduled time, so it’s worth checking, and remember you can use www.resolver.co.uk to submit your query.

Season tickets
Refunds are based on the length of delays as a proportion of the daily cost of your ticket. There are two ways to get compensation; some firms offer an automatic system for delays, while on others you have to complete the manual process for completion of the returns.

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