Fifth of Britons 'resigned to poor railway service'

Commuters on train

Twenty per cent of Britons are “resigned to poor service” on the railways, according to a new study

A report by Ombudsman Services found that long-term issues have resulted in “high levels of disillusionment”. 

Public transport campaigners said it is “simply unacceptable” that some passengers are paying “thousands of pounds for poor service”. 

Ombudsman Services commissioned a survey of 2,477 people which suggested that complaints about rail services increased by almost a third (31 per cent) to two million last year. 

The most common rail complaints were for punctuality issues, poor customer service and overcrowding. 

Rail passengers with a complaint must contact the relevant train operator in the first instance, before going to Transport Focus or London TravelWatch if they are not happy with the response. 

In December Conservative MP Tim Loughton introduced a Bill to Parliament calling for a law change to establish a rail ombudsman, which would oversee a simplified scheme aimed at hitting train operators harder financially to act as an incentive to improve services. 

Railway station

Long-term issues have resulted in “high levels of disillusionment”

Recent figures published by regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) show that the rate of passenger complaints per 100,000 journeys between July and September last year was 13 per cent higher than the same period in 2015. 

The ORR noted that methodology changes may have impacted on the data. 

Campaign for Better Transport campaigner Lianna Etkind said: “No other service industry would get away with treating its customers so appallingly. 

“When trains are regularly late or overcrowded, it can genuinely blight people’s lives. 

“Regulators need to ensure that when people complain about their train service, they aren’t just fobbed off with a copy and paste response but that real action is taken to improve the service.” 

UK consumers overall made an estimated 55 million complaints last year – up 6 per cent from 2015, the Ombudsman Services study found. 

Companies lost more than £37 billion due to the 28 per cent of people who spent less or took their custom elsewhere after receiving poor service, according to the study. 


It is “simply unacceptable” that some passengers are paying “thousands of pounds for poor service”

The most commonly complained-about sector was retail at 24 per cent, followed by telecoms (13 per cent), energy (10 per cent) and transport (7 per cent). 

Some 17 per cent of people say they have complained about problems before, but nothing has changed. 

Chief ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said: “Consumers feel that complaining is often a waste of their time, because they see no change in the behaviour of big business. 

“By putting consumers at the heart of what they do, businesses can prevent customers from taking their custom elsewhere, which is good for consumers and good for business.” 

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