Train companies’ passenger service improving, but complaints handling must get better

25 July 2017

Train companies’ customer service is making progress in some areas with better passenger information and delay compensation, but complaints handling must improve.

The annual report on customer service on the railway – ‘Measuring Up’ – published today by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) focuses on four areas of the passenger experience: ticket selling, how well companies provide passenger information, the support provided for people who need help on their journey, and complaints and compensation handling.

Research carried out by ORR in conjunction with train companies reveals that although passengers were happy with the ease of making a complaint and the politeness of staff, 59% were dissatisfied with the outcome of their complaint and 52% with the way their complaint was handled.

It also shows that while there were areas of good practice, the number of complaints rose by 8% to over 500,000 in the past year and 12 out of 24 train companies did not provide a full response to 95% of complaints they received within the required 20 working days.

In light of these findings, ORR is supporting the introduction of a Rail Ombudsman to provide a better service to passengers and offer a means to resolve disputes.

The report also reveals a number of areas in which the industry is making progress:

  • Successful compensation claims have risen by around 10 percentage points in the past year, and increasing numbers of train companies are following ORR’s five good practice recommendations for improving the compensation claims process
  • An audit of companies’ websites showed that passengers are getting better information on how to choose, buy and use tickets, although further improvement is required in some areas such as flagging up when discounts are available for groups travelling together
  • 12 train companies now guarantee to refund the extra costs to customers who buy a ticket from a machine, without realising that a cheaper fare was available for the same journey. Later this year ORR will repeat its ticket machine research to assess whether companies are continuing to improve the service they offer passengers.

Separate research on access and assistance for people who need help on journeys will be published this autumn. The results are expected to help train companies build on encouraging figures, which showed that in 2016/17 there were 1.2 million bookings through the Passenger Assist scheme, up 4.4% on the previous year.

John Larkinson, Director of Railway Markets and Economics, said:

“ORR is committed to protecting the interests of passengers and ensuring they get the best possible experience – from paying the right price for their ticket and receiving help they need on their trip, to being treated properly should anything go wrong.

“We are seeing that the industry is improving customer service in some areas, such as compensation for delays, but the quality of service when dealing with passenger complaints needs to be better. This is why we are supporting setting up an Ombudsman and will also continue working with industry to keep offering a better service to passengers.”

Notes to Editors

  1. 'Measuring Up' Annual Rail Consumer Report
  2. Good practice recommendations
  3. Train operating companies’ website audit
  4. The Rail Minister has been leading discussions about introducing a Rail Ombudsman and ORR has provided views on what a good scheme looks like, to both support its development for passengers and make things clear and workable for train companies.

For further information, call Simon Belgard on 020 7282 2094.