Press releases

Rail regulator assumes sponsorship of the Rail Ombudsman

26 November 2023
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has this weekend begun its sponsorship of the Rail Ombudsman. This fulfils the Plan for Rail commitment for ORR to take on this role and will allow it to hold the provider to account for the independent and impartial delivery of the service.
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Passengers looking at digital information board at Manchester Piccadilly Station

The Rail Ombudsman plays an important role in ensuring rail passengers have access to free alternative dispute resolution when things go wrong.

The rail regulator has updated aspects of how the Rail Ombudsman operates to improve the passenger experience, including new arrangements to enhance the accessibility of the service.

The accessibility enhancements include:

  • Appointment of a board member with lived experience of disability to the Rail Ombudsman’s new independent board  
  • Ombudsman staff being trained in disability and vulnerability awareness by experts with lived experience of disability  
  • Introduction of new passenger contact channels and a programme of upgrades to processes and systems to provide for a more accessible service
  • Commissioning testing of the accessibility of the service to identify any barriers to access and opportunities for improvement.

Since the service was introduced in 2018, the Rail Ombudsman has dealt with more than 15,000 customer cases.

Stephanie Tobyn, ORR’s director of strategy, policy and reform said:

The Rail Ombudsman provides confidence to passengers that there is an independent body to turn to where they are unable to resolve a complaint with their train or station operator. In ORR’s new oversight role we’ve improved the model for how the Ombudsman service operates to better serve the needs of passengers.

Kevin Grix, CEO and chief ombudsman of the Rail Ombudsman, said:

We welcome ORR’s plans to improve passenger experience in rail and reaffirm our commitment to championing accessibility requirements in our pursuit of an inclusive experience for all passengers.

We have been proud to serve as the Rail Ombudsman over the last five years and now look forward to continuing our work holding train operators to account and helping to raise standards. We will work collaboratively with ORR and will continue to provide a single front door for passenger complaints so that we can assist the industry in fostering a positive travel environment for all.

Notes to editors

  1. The Rail Ombudsman – ORR main page
  2. The Rail Ombudsman service was launched in November 2018 and provides a free service to passengers to investigate unresolved complaints between consumers and participating train and station operators. It also supports the rail industry in raising standards and improving services for customers.  
  3. Some of the changes that ORR sponsorship will introduce include: a new WhatsApp contact channel for passengers, a new video call option during complaint mediation, new Consumer and Industry Advisory Panels to support the work of the new independent board, more active data collection and testing to ensure those who need access to the Rail Ombudsman service are able to.  
  4. The Dispute Resolution Ombudsman (“DRO”) Limited will provide the Rail Ombudsman service under an ORR contract. DRO is an independent, not-for-profit, government approved Ombudsman scheme, incorporating The Furniture & Home Improvement Ombudsman and Rail Ombudsman providing Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) for the rail, retail, furniture and home improvement sectors.  
  5. The ORR contract will consist of an initial five-year term with the option for the rail regulator to extend this.  
  6. Find out more about the service on the Rail Ombudsman website.