Voice of the Customer

More British people distrust railway companies than trust them, a survey by Britain’s largest consumer body revealed. Which? called on the Government to make the rail regulator force train operating firms to pay compensation to passengers who experience persistent short delays or overcrowding.

The demand came as a survey showed 30% of Britons distrust railway companies – more than the 26% who trust them – in a sign of the increasing wariness of passengers.

It came amid a backdrop of strikes and protests on the Southern Railway. London mayor Sadiq Khan on Friday repeated his offer to put Transport for London (TfL) temporarily in control of the franchise, run by Govia Thameslink Railway, after months of disruption caused by industrial action and a shortage of staff.

Which? said that its analysis of data from Raildar, a website which tracks Britain’s railways, revealed that one in five (20%) Southern services were still delayed or cancelled even after a reduced timetable was introduced.

In addition more trains suffered delays of between 10 and 29 minutes (108 a day) compared to the same period last year (63 a day).

The consumer body called for new compensation schemes as passengers suffering delays of under 30 minutes, or overcrowding, are not currently covered.

It called on the Government and rail regulator to speed up the introduction of automatic compensation payments and introduce a statutory ombudsman that is mandatory for all train companies to join in order 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.”

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, said: “We know that every minute counts for our customers. Everyone in the railway wants trains to run on time and when things go wrong we want to put it right.

“Train companies are paying out more in compensation to customers, making it easier to claim and introducing smarter tickets and ways to pay which means that more operators will be able to compensate customers automatically in future.”

Populus on behalf of Which? surveyed a representative sample of around 2,000 UK adults for the July trust figures.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “When things go wrong it is vital that passengers understand their rights and can easily access compensation.

“That’s why we are working with industry and the regulator to deliver improvements, including responding to issues raised by the Which? super-complaint.

“At the same time, we are delivering the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century, investing a record £40 billion in our rail network to give passengers the journeys they demand and fixing the problems that cause delays in the first place.”

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