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Call for transport ombudsman as rail prices rise but service and standards fall

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
The majority of rail passengers experience delayed, dirty and overcrowded train journeys despite fares rising. As a result, a campaign group is calling for a transport ombudsman to be established.

A survey has revealed more than half of people (53%) couldn’t get a seat owing to overcrowding at least once in six months, while one in seven (15%) said this occurs to them regularly.

Delays are also a big problem, with many people (51%) experiencing train delays of up to 15 minutes and around one in 10 (12%) saying they had faced frequent delays, according to the poll by campaign group Which?.

Half of passengers also said their carriage was dirty or littered at least once, while one in five (18%) of those asked said they weren’t able to access any toilet facilities on a long train journey on at least one occasion.

As well as service standards, attitudes are also shifting as it found many passengers do not trust that rail companies will put things right when their services fail – only two in five people (43%) trust the train company to handle their claim for compensation fairly. And a majority of people don’t know how to complain.

Two thirds (67%) thought they could go to the “rail ombudsman” if they were unhappy with the way their complaint was dealt with, even though there is currently no ombudsman for rail.

As such, ahead of the general election next month, Which? is calling on the next government to ensure all passengers are provided with better services.

In its bid for the next government to hold train companies to account for poor passenger services, it wants to see a statutory transport ombudsman set up that all train companies and airlines must join to help manage passenger complaints.

Further, it wants to see a strengthened Office of Rail and Road so that it more clearly puts the rights of passengers first.

The call comes as Which? found one in five people (20%) believe rail should be a key priority for the next government.

Alex Hayman, Which? managing director of public markets, said: “The rail sector is failing passengers on too frequent a basis. People believe that improving rail services should be one of the top priorities for the next government, which isn’t surprising given the numerous stories we have heard about constant delays and overcrowding that many people face on a daily basis.

“The next government will need to quickly step up and ensure that passengers are getting a much better standard of service. Trust can only begin to be restored by introducing an independent, statutory ombudsman, and a stronger regulator that stands up for passengers.”

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