The Rail Ombudsman, which is celebrating its second anniversary, is calling upon industry to do more to ensure that passengers are aware of the scheme that was put in place in 2018 to help investigate unresolved passenger disputes.
The Ombudsman doesn’t handle all complaints. With close to a million complaints made to train companies since 2018, only a fraction have gone on to be escalated to the Ombudsman.
Figures from the Rail Ombudsman, released on their second anniversary reveal that around 6,500 complaints to train operating companies that remained unresolved to the satisfaction of the rail passenger, were escalated to the Ombudsman. Of these, nearly 2% were centred around accessibility disputes, the Ombudsman also receives a significant number of disputes from passengers classed as vulnerable consumers.
Over the past two years, 76% of rail passengers received a full or partial remedy to their in-scope dispute, with those awarded a financial settlement as part of the Ombudsman’s ruling, receiving on average £126.
The Rail Ombudsman was established in November 2018 following a campaign by consumer group Which? and was outlined as a pledge in the Conservative Party Manifesto released ahead of the 2017 election campaign.
Decisions by the Rail Ombudsman are legally binding, and all train operators within England, Wales and Scotland are part of the scheme, which also provides learning and accredited City & Guilds training.
Kevin Grix, CEO and Chief Ombudsman, Rail Ombudsman, said: “We know that railways are an essential part of the daily life for millions of people and the cost of travel is not inconsequential. When things go wrong it can be very disruptive which is why passengers should know that there is a free and independent Rail Ombudsman for them to complain to.
“Naturally at any milestone, as well as celebrating our successes, we know there is more to be done to increase the impact and reach of the Ombudsman. Cases brought to us are lower than expected, and therefore, we call on the industry to improve their signposting to the Rail Ombudsman.“
Previously, before the launch of the Rail Ombudsman, if a passenger’s complaint was unable to be resolved by a train company, a consumer’s choice was limited, with the courts the only solution that was binding upon train operators.
Grix continued: “As we suggest improvements to the industry based on the cases brought to us, the more visibility we have on rail passengers’ experiences, the more informed our recommendations to industry are. “