November 19, 2009
If your train was decrepit, dangerous or didn’t run on time you can make a complaint.
Who do you complain to?
First contact the rail operator you wish to complain about. Under the licences granted to them, every rail company is required to have a complaints/comments procedure that has been approved by the regulator.
If you live in a metropolitan area covered by a Passenger Transport Executive (PTE) you can also complain to them.
If the rail company or PTE does not resolve the matter to your satisfaction, contact your regional Rail Passengers Committee (RPC):
London Transport Users Committee Clements House, 14-18 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7PR (Tel: 020 7505 9000; Fax: 020 7505 9003)
Rail Passengers Council
Clements House, 14-18 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7NL (Tel: 020 7505 9090; Fax: 020 7505 9004) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The RPCs were set up under the Railways Act 1993 to protect the interests of users of the services and facilities provided on Britain’s rail network. They will take up complaints regarding operators, local authorities and the government and put forward the case for improvements. They can ask the rail regulatory body, the Strategic Rail Authority, to intervene and use its powers to resolve problems.
As a general rule they will not actively investigate complaints unless the relevant rail company has had an opportunity to deal with them first. It is better for you to put your complaint in writing. Enclose copies of any correspondence that you have had with the operator.
They will acknowledge your complaint and, if necessary, refer it to the operator concerned within three working days of receipt if they cannot answer it fully within seven working days.
If the operator has not replied within one calendar month the committee will send a written reminder to them and an advice letter to you, explaining that your complaint is still receiving attention, along with the reasons given by the operator for the delay. If they feel that the reply that the operator makes is not appropriate, the complaint will be referred back to the operator again.
What grounds do you have to complain?
The RPCs deal with complaints about:
- safety and security
- punctuality and cancellations
- promoting integrated public transport
- fares and ticket types
- capacity and overcrowding
- quality and design of trains
- access to the network for everyone
- facilities for passengers with disabilities
- buying tickets and ticket inspection
- facilities at stations
- information at stations, on trains or by telephone
- proposals for change which affect passengers
Will you get a fair hearing?
The rail passengers committees are independent statutory bodies set up under the Railways Act 1993 to protect the interests of rail users. They are established and funded by the rail regulator, who appoints their members and provides their resources. Committee members represent a wide cross-section of rail users and conduct their meetings in public.
What will happen if you’re successful?
Neither RPCs nor the rail passengers’ council have the power to award compensation – they can only make recommendations, and have no powers to force a rail operator to do anything. They do however, have the legal right to make recommendations for improvement to rail services, and can ask the rail regulator or SRA to take action where necessary. The SRA has the power to sanction franchise holders and to refuse to renew a rail franchise.
Anything else you can do?
You could ask the operator in question if it has set up its own arbitration scheme to settle disputes between passengers and the company.
Your only option, if the rail operator simply refuses to concede, may be to take legal action.