All train companies will be obliged to join a new rail ombudsman being launched to handle complaints from passengers, under plans announced by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
Britain’s railways regulator announced its intention to alter the licenses of rail companies, so that they are required to sign-up to the new scheme.
And the ombudsman, which is expected to be launched later in 2018, will be able to make decisions that are binding for rail customers, according to the ORR.
At the moment, if a customer submits a refund request or complaint to a rail company – for example, after being delayed – and this is rejected, they have to escalate their claim to a body called Transport Focus.
Transport Focus is an independent passenger watchdog which can take up your complaint and demand a proper response on your behalf, but it can’t force a company into action.
‘An ombudsman scheme will give passengers real certainty’
ORR Deputy Director of Consumers, Stephanie Tobyn, said: “Our surveys show that passengers are often dissatisfied with the way their complaints are handled, and this damages their trust in rail companies and the railway industry in general.
“An ombudsman scheme will give passengers real certainty, consistency and clarity in how their complaints are handled; that is why we want every rail company to be required to join it.”
A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group said: “The Rail Delivery Group and train companies committed last year to introducing a new independent ombudsman to investigate and rule on unresolved customer complaints.
“The partnership railway, in its recently published long-term plan, has committed to increase customer satisfaction by improving the railway to remain the top-rated major railway in Europe.
“The creation of a new ombudsman, supported by the industry, will help build confidence in our services and we are pleased that the rail regulator supports this.”