Train operators will be required to highlight compensation rights

 

rail_passengers

 

The Department for Transport has announced that it will require train operators to raise passengers’ awareness of their right to claim compensation when trains are delayed. The move follows research by Transport Focus which showed that only 35% of eligible passengers claim.

Although claims have trebled from just 12% of eligible passengers in 2013, the watchdog found that over half of passengers still do not know they can claim compensation or do not think about it. Only 38% of passengers are satisfied that train operators alert them to their right to claim compensation.

The proportion of customers claiming for their most recent delay was also highly variable, depending on operator. The watchdog said this indicated “lack of consistent practice across the rail industry”.

It concluded: “There is a clear and continuing need to increase levels of awareness among passengers regarding their eligibility to claim compensation and how to make a claim.”

To improve awareness, Transport Focus said it was “vital to inform passengers each time they experience a qualifying delay” through announcements on trains, at stations and via personalised electronic notifications. It also recommended that operators should display posters on trains and at stations outlining eligibility, as well as on websites.

Additional claims could cost operators significant sums. In total, DfT franchised operators paid £45m in compensation to passengers in 2015/16.

In response to the Transport Focus report and last year’s Super Complaint by consumer rights organisation Which?, the DfT announced that it would be holding talks with individual operators over the next six months to discuss improvements. Each operator will be required to measure awareness among its passengers and set out steps to make passengers aware of their right to claim compensation. The exercise will be repeated after 18 months.

Transport Focus’s research also provided evidence of rising passenger expectations in the way compensation claims are handled. It included declining satisfaction with claims settlement times, despite the average time remaining unchanged at around three weeks over the past three years. In addition, the watchdog said customers are becoming more frustrated when claims are not acknowledged.

Which? called for moves towards automatic compensation schemes to be speeded up and also for the government to set up a new statutory ombudsman, mandatory to all train companies, to help resolve passenger complaints.

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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