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New rail ombudsman to help dissatisfied train customers

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A new rail ombudsman is to be set up to improve the complaints procedure for dissatisfied train customers.

Customers who are unhappy with the outcomes of their complaints to rail companies will be able to refer them to the ombudsman.

All train companies are supporting the ombudsman and will have to take action if failings are identified.

The ombudsman service will be free to use and is due to launch in November. It will cover rail journeys throughout Britain.

Rail Minister, Jo Johnson, said: “This is an important step by the industry – an independent and effective ombudsman, working closely with consumer groups, will ensure passengers get a fair deal and give them a stronger voice. And it will also help the rail companies to improve their service to passengers.”

A recent report by the Office of Rail and Road found that fewer than a third (29%) of train passengers were satisfied with the complaints process.

Alex Hayman of consumer group Which?, which has been campaigning for the ombudsman, welcomed the move.

“For the many passengers who are tired of being badly let down by train services and having their complaints ignored, the introduction of a rail ombudsman can’t come soon enough,” he said.

“While the introduction of an ombudsman service is welcome it’s vital it is introduced without further delay and that it provides real redress for passengers, so the rail system can start working for passengers, not just train companies.”

But Steve Chambers, from Campaign for Better Transport, said the ombudsman should be a last resort for disgruntled passengers.

He said: “While we welcome the appointment of an independent ombudsman to step in when passengers feel let down by train companies, an ombudsman should be a last resort and not something people have to access very often.

“What we really want to see is train companies providing a better service, so that passengers have no need to complain in the first place. Train companies need to improve the way they handle passenger complaints and deal with compensation claims quickly.

“They must also look at how they communicate when things do go wrong and learn from the recent mistakes surrounding the introduction of the timetable.”

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