New rail ombudsman launches to address passenger complaints in UK

New rail ombudsman launches to address passenger complaints in UK

A new rail ombudsman service has launched in the UK, giving passengers a chance to address grievances with train companies.

Figures show just 28 per cent of people who made a complaint to a rail company in 2017/18 were satisfied with the outcome, with the new services designed to boost this figure.

Passengers who have a complaint about an event occurring from today (and who are unhappy with how it has been dealt with by a rail company) can now appeal to the ombudsman.

This new body has expertise in consumer law and alternative dispute resolution and will review appeals with a view to resolving them by mediation or by issuing a formal ruling if no agreement between the customer and the company can be reached.

Customers can go to the free-to-use, independent ombudsman if they are unhappy with the final response from a rail company (sometimes called a ‘deadlock letter’) or if their complaint has not been resolved within 40 working days of the rail company receiving it.

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Andrew Jones, rail minister, said: “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.

“Rail firms must take this opportunity to improve their complaints process and to increase customer satisfaction.”

The service will be provided by the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman.

The launch follows widespread disruption on the railways this year which has angered many passengers.

This included the botched roll-out of a new timetable in May and repeated strikes.

The most common gripes last year were about punctuality and reliability, difficulties buying a ticket and not being able to find a seat.

Kevin Grix, chief executive at the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman, said: “We are excited to start as the new rail ombudsman and to provide an independent service that can resolve disputes between consumers and the rail industry.

“With our legal foundation and decades of experience we are well placed to support rail companies to better listen to their customers and help to improve their services.”

The new ombudsman will build upon the important work that the Statutory Appeals Bodies (Transport Focus and London TravelWatch) have pursued, but without any powers to compel operators to come up with a binding resolution for a disputed complaint.