The Rail Ombudsman


ORR sponsors the Rail Ombudsman, which is a free, impartial and independent service that passengers can use to escalate unresolved complaints about train and station operators.

The Rail Ombudsman is an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service for the rail sector. Its decisions are binding on rail service providers but not on passengers.

Our role as sponsor is to hold the Rail Ombudsman to account for the independent and impartial delivery of the service.

Our role involves:

  • ensuring that the Rail Ombudsman is meeting its responsibilities and obligations
  • ensuring that the service remains accessible to all users
  • monitoring and assuring the performance and quality of the service

Our role does not involve:

  • getting involved in individual complaints or disputes which are case managed by the Rail Ombudsman
  • being part of the governance structure, or the day to day running of the service
  • getting involved in complaints about the service provided by the Rail Ombudsman

When can you raise a complaint with the Rail Ombudsman? 

If you have reason to complain about your train or station operator, you must try to resolve this with the rail provider directly in the first instance. You can refer to Know your rail rights for more information on how to take the first steps towards resolving your complaint. 

If your complaint remains unresolved then the Rail Ombudsman may be able to help you if you meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • your complaint is with a participating rail service provider
  • your complaint is being raised within 12 months of any final response from the rail service provider (unless there are exceptional circumstances)
  • you are over 16 years of age (or have a representative who is)
  • 40 working days have passed since you raised your initial complaint with the rail service provider, or you have received a “deadlock letter” from the provider (meaning they cannot take your complaint any further)

For further details about the Rail Ombudsman and how it may be able to assist you, along with a full list of participating rail service providers, please visit their website.

What if I have a complaint about the Rail Ombudsman?

The Rail Ombudsman is governed by an independent board chaired by individuals with relevant expertise, known as the Rail ADR Service Board. The Rail ADR Service Board commission an Independent Assessor who can review complaints about the standard of service provided by the Rail Ombudsman.

For further information on how to complain about the Rail Ombudsman you can visit their website.

How ORR took responsibility for the sponsorship of the Rail Ombudsman

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The May 2021 Plan for Rail set out that ORR would take over responsibility for sponsorship of the Rail Ombudsman from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG). In June 2022 we launched a consultation on proposals for a future operating model for the ORR sponsored Rail Ombudsman. We published our conclusions from the consultation in our decision document

In May 2023, following a competitive tender process, we appointed Dispute Resolution Ombudsman (DRO) as the provider of the ORR sponsored Rail Ombudsman service. Transition from the RDG to the ORR sponsored service took effect on 26 November 2023.