Train companies accused of misleading passengers on compensation

11 June 2018, 07:09

ScotRail train

Train companies are continuing to mislead passengers over their compensation rights, a consumer group has claimed.

Some operators are refusing to accept liability for expenses such as taxis when a train is cancelled despite the industry's conditions of travel being rewritten, Which? said.

A warning that rail firms will not pay consequential losses during disruption was removed from the National Rail Conditions of Travel (NRCoT) in March.

This followed accusations that it contradicted the Consumer Rights Act (CRA), which has been in force for the rail industry since October 2016.

Which? made "mystery shop" phone calls to 26 operators, asking if an elderly friend or relative was eligible for compensation when the last train of the night was cancelled and they were forced to pay for a cab.

Almost half (12 out of 26) provided "incorrect or inconsistent advice", the consumer group found.

The six "worst offenders" - Cross Country, Grand Central, Greater Anglia, Heathrow Express, ScotRail and Stansted Express - all told the secret shoppers that they could not make a claim.

The two firms providing an airport link - Heathrow Express and Stansted Express - have different terms and conditions to the NRCoT but are still subject to consumer law.

Train companies advise passengers to claim compensation through their delay repay scheme, which makes payouts based on the length of delay and type of ticket.

The CRA gives customers the right to claim additional, consequential losses above the price of their train ticket if they can show that a service has not been provided with reasonable skill and care.

Which? managing director of public markets Alex Hayman urged regulator the Office of Rail and Road to take enforcement action.

He said: "This is the latest in a catalogue of examples of train companies treating their passengers with breathtaking disregard.

"They have been warned time and again about their duties to ensure their passengers are getting the money they are owed when they fail to deliver, yet they fail to act until forced.

"The regulator must now start showing some teeth and take immediate enforcement action or the Government has no choice but to step in and stand up for passengers and their rights."

Jason Webb, deputy managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group, representing train companies, said: "Over the last five years, compensation payments have increased by almost 500% to £74 million, supported by the introduction of quicker and easier forms of compensation, train announcements and email reminders.

"There is still even more we can do to improve customer information which is why we are carrying out a review of all train operator websites and are continuing to train our employees to ensure that customers get clear advice about how they can claim."