Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has announced that the first-ever independent Rail Ombudsman launched on Monday to handle disputes over complaints about the UK’s railways.
From today, if a customer has a complaint and is not happy with how it has been dealt with by a rail company, they can appeal to the Rail Ombudsman.
The service was first announced in July, with rail companies working with the government to appoint the official ombudsman.
Until its launch, data from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) showed 99 per cent of complaints were directly dealt with by the rail companies without the need for an appeals process. However, operators are now supporting and funding the ombudsman in an effort to build “greater confidence in their services and deliver on their commitment to increase customer satisfaction”, according to RDG.
The new body has expertise in consumer law and alternative dispute resolution, and RDG says it will review appeals with the aim of resolving them by mediation or by issuing a formal, binding ruling if no agreement between the customer and the company can be reached.
Rail companies will still be the first point of call for complaints and will continue to attempt a resolution, but if the ombudsman finds failings in the company’s handling of a dispute it has the power to act.
According to RDG, this means it is no longer possible for complaints to reach a deadlock between the customer and the rail company.
Customers can appeal to the Rail Ombudsman if they are unhappy with the outcome of their complaint or if it has not been resolved within 40 working days of the rail company receiving it.
Jacqueline Starr, MD of customer experience at RDG, said: “I’m pleased to announce that the independent Rail Ombudsman is launching as part of our commitment to improving customer experience. This new nationwide process will put the customer at the heart of resolving complaints and give the, even greater confidence that we’re doing as much as we can to get a fair outcome.”
Rail minister Andrew Jones, commented: “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.”
Kevin Grix, CEO and chief ombudsman of the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman, added: “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.”