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Roads to Nowhere

Rail Ombudsman up and running

Alice Ridley's picture

A new independent rail ombudsman has been launched to intervene when passengers feel let down by train companies. We welcomed its introduction because we know that far too often passengers don’t feel their complaints against rail companies are resolved satisfactorily, but until now there was no way to appeal the train company’s decision.

Complaints have soared in the last year, especially since the chaos which ensued at stations up and down the country after the botched introduction of the new timetable in May. But figures show that less than a third (28 per cent) of people who complain to a train company were happy with the outcome. Until now passengers had to simply accept what a train company said, whether they agreed with it or not, but now thanks to the new Rail Ombudsman there is an independent body to step in.

This doesn’t mean you can bypass your train operator and go straight to the ombudsman, you still have to complain to the company that provided the poor service in the first place, but it does now give you a right of appeal if don’t agree with the train operator’s answer.

This is a welcome move, but we still want train operators to resolve complaints satisfactorily in the first place and aim to improve their service in the long term, thereby reducing the need for the ombudsman in disputes.

Until that happens though you may find yourself having to turn to the ombudsman when things have gone wrong, so here’s a quick guide on how to use this new free service.

Firstly make sure you raise your initial complaint with the train operator themselves. Hopefully they will be able to resolve your issue and offer compensation where available. Check with the train company for its complaints procedure and make sure you keep any relevant tickets or documentation, including any correspondence.

If after 40 days from your initial complaint there has been no resolution, or you have reached deadlock with the train operator, you can contact the rail ombudsman and ask it to look into the complaint.

The easiest way to access the service is through its website at www.railombudsman.org, but you can also call on 0330 094 0362and ask for a complaints form. Whilst the majority of train companies have signed up to the ombudsman service, it is worth double checking on the website to make sure the company you wish to complain about is one of the participating operators. As long as they are, you can then use the ombudsman to investigate on your behalf. The website has an online portal where you can complete all the details of the complaint, as well as uploading any photos or documentation that supports your case. You can then log in to see how the case is progressing. The ombudsman aims to resolve your complaint within 40 working days.

With customer dissatisfaction and poor performance among train companies reaching record levels this year an ombudsman was needed to start to rebuild passengers’ confidence in the railways. We hope that most people will never need to use its services, and that train companies are beginning to address their failings when it comes to providing good customer service, but only time will tell if passengers’ trust in our rail network can be restored.

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