Rail firms ‘dragging heels’ over compensation payouts

Train companies have been accused of “dragging their heels” over compensation payouts after new figures revealed which operators are the slowest to deal with claims.

Passengers made three million claims for rail delays between April and mid-October, according to regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

Firms are expected to process applications within one month under the terms of their operating licence.

Figures published by the ORR show this target was met for 92% of claims, but the worst-performing operators were Hull Trains (32%), TransPennine Express (46%) and South Western Railway (70%).

Great Western Railway also struggled at 76%.

It is the first time the ORR has published data on delay compensation.

Govia Thameslink Railway was one of 10 operators to achieve a score of 100%.

It received one million claims over the period, which was more than any other company.

The large number of claims was partly due to the chaotic implementation of new timetables in May, which led to severe disruption for several weeks.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers tell us that they want punctual and reliable journeys. When things don’t go to plan for passengers, prompt responses, an apology and compensation can take away some of the sting.

“While the majority of operators are promptly dealing with claims, it is disappointing to see some dragging their heels.

“Operators now need to take action to ensure more compensation claims are dealt within the required 20 working days to help passengers feel confident in their service.

“The rail industry should introduce more automated compensation for delays and cancellations so that they get the money they are entitled to.”

The amount of compensation paid during disruption varies between train companies and depends on the length of delay and the type of ticket held.

Separate ORR figures show 33 complaints were made per 100,000 journeys between July and September, up 16% year on year.

The punctuality and reliability of services remains the most common cause of complaints, although the overall increase was driven by a rise in frustration over train quality.

Robert Nisbet, regional director of industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We know that services on some routes weren’t good enough last summer due to disruption from the May timetable change and the heatwave the country experienced.

“We want to make it simple and easy for customers to claim compensation if they’ve experienced a delay, and some train companies have introduced automatic refunds, helping claims to increase by 80% over the last two years.

“As well as Delay Repay compensation, the industry has paid out additional compensation, worth up to a month’s free travel, for those on routes most affected by the timetable change.”