Britain’s long-suffering rail travellers finally have an ombudsman to handle disputed complaints.
The rail industry has launched the first ever rail ombudsman to help customers who have complaints about train operators.
There are currently over half a million complaints made to rail firms every year.
The rail ombudsman, first announced in July this year, will deal with customers who are not happy about the way their complaints have been resolved by rail operators.
This means it will no longer be possible for a complaint to remain deadlocked between a rail company and a customer.
It will also have the power to order train operators to pay compensation.
The service will be provided by the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman, more widely known for settling disputes in the furniture industry.
It will be free to use and will cover all train services across Britain.
Source: The Rail Ombudsman, November 2018
Under the previous system, if you were unhappy with a complaint made to a rail operator you could go to consumer group Transport Focus. However, this group cannot force train operators to act.
Andrew Jones, the rail minister, says: “This is a significant step forward for passengers’ rights. This independent ombudsman will make sure passengers are heard and that they get a fair deal when train companies fall short.”
He adds: “Rail firms must take this opportunity to improve their complaints process and to increase customer satisfaction.”
The news was welcomed by consumer groups.
Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, says the move is a “welcome step forward for rail passengers”.
He says: “Its arrival will also drive wider improvements in complaints handling. We will continue to deal with many issues raised by passengers that fall outside the remit of this scheme and we will monitor closely the way the Ombudsman operates to make sure it really works for passengers.”
Darren Shirley, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, says: “Millions of people rely on the railway each day; when things go wrong they deserve to have confidence that their complaints will be heeded. We welcome the new Ombudsman which will help to give them this confidence.”