Undercover research by Which? shows that passengers may be unnecessarily paying for extra costs resulting from cancelled trains due to incorrect or misleading advice from rail companies.
Changes to the National Rail Conditions of Travel were introduced in March and set out stricter guidelines by which passengers can claim for compensation. It covers ‘consequential loss’, which are costs – such as taxi fares and hotel bookings – incurred when a journey is disrupted because of a failure to provide service by the rail company.
Which? tested 26 rail companies in its research, calling each twice undercover asking if an elderly friend was eligible for compensation for taxi fares when their train – the last of the night – was cancelled.
Only half of the companies gave correct or helpful advice on every call, with Which? saying the rest failed or performed inconsistently.
The 13 that gave the correct answer on both calls were Southern, Gatwick Express, Northern, Southwestern Railway, Transpennine Express, East Midlands, London North Western, TfL Rail, C2C, Virgin East Coast, Merseyrail and Heathrow Connect.
Which? says the worst offenders, who wrongly told the callers that they weren’t entitled to compensation on both occasions, were Scotrail, Greater Anglia, Grand Central, Stansted Express, Cross Country and Heathrow Express.
When asked by Which? about the findings following the research, Scotrail, Greater Anglia, Stansted Express and Grand Central all said their company policy does cover consequential losses, pointing to a miscommunication from individual staff members, while Heathrow Express said it would retrain its staff and Cross Country did not respond.
Six companies – Thameslink/Great Northern, Chiltern, South Eastern, West Midlands, Arriva Wales and Virgin West Cost gave inconsistent or unhelpful advice, giving the correct answer on one call and incorrect on the other, or otherwise providing vague information that left the callers uncertain about their rights.
The companies’ websites also proved unhelpful, with 18 of the 26 not providing enough information for customers determine their rights.
East Midlands, Great Western, Heathrow Express, Hull Trains and Stansted Express all give misleading blanket statements saying they are not liable for consequential losses and that passengers should claim on their travel insurance. Meanwhile, Merseyrail, Southwestern and Southeastern say they only consider claims under certain circumstances.
Great Western, Heathrow Express and East Midlands have since updated their online information, while Hull Trains is reviewing its Passengers’ Charter.
Read the full Which? findings here.