Government must rebuild trust on our railways after a summer of discontent

With speculation that beleaguered rail customers could be hit with a fares rise when the latest RPI figures are released on Tuesday, Which? says more needs to be done to ensure that long-suffering passengers receive better compensation for journeys that are disrupted.

The Which? Consumer Insight Tracker reveals trust in the train sector has dropped over the last year, with only 26% people trusting train companies (July 2016 down 7 percentage points on July 2015), and distrust rising to 30% (July 2016 up 7 percentage points from July 2015).

This comes as new Which? analysis of data from reveals that one in five Southern rail services are still delayed or cancelled even after the introduction of a much reduced timetable. In the three weeks following the emergency timetable being introduced on 11 July, 20% of weekday services were cancelled or delayed: 314 delayed and 67 cancelled out of 1,917 services per day.

In addition, following the emergency timetable, more rail services faced delays of between 10-29 minutes than they did during the same period last year: 108 compared to 63 per day.

Passengers suffering persistent delays of under-30 minutes, or overcrowding due to reduced services, are not covered under existing compensation schemes.

Which? is calling on the Government to make the rail regulator implement a compensation system that ensures passengers experiencing persistent short delays or overcrowding can claim. The Government and rail regulator should also speed up the introduction of automatic compensation payments.

The Government should also introduce a statutory ombudsman that is mandatory for all train companies to join to resolve passenger complaints.

Alex Neill, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Which?, said:

“The extreme disruption experienced by Southern passengers highlights a summer of discontent. Passengers shouldn’t have to deal with persistent poor service, disruption ​and inadequate compensation for their journeys. It’s little wonder that trust in the rail ​industry is falling.

“The Government must hold the industry to account by ensuring that passengers complaints are properly heard and where things go wrong they are put right promptly.”

Notes to editors

  1. Trust in train travel sector sourced from Which? Consumer Insight Tracker July 2016. Populus on behalf of Which? surveyed a representative sample of around 2,000 UK adults for the July wave. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
  2. Which? conducted an analysis of delays and cancellations to Southern rail services from data collected by from the National Rail Enquiries data feed. We compared blocks of 3 working week periods before and after the timetable amendments were introduced on the 11th July 2016, and also contrasted to equivalent periods in 2015 for delays only.

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