ORR urges sweeping reforms on accessibility and compensation
The ORR sets out its proposals aimed at passengers being made more aware of their right to compensation, and disabled travellers experiencing more reliable assistance services, and greater accessibility across the rail network overall.
Passengers will be able to claim compensation more easily when their train is delayed, and the rail network will be more accessible to disabled passengers, under proposals submitted to the Williams Rail Review by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
There were 5.3 million delay compensation claims made over the past year and research in 2018 also revealed that only a third (35%) of eligible passengers claimed compensation, totalling some £81 million. There were almost 1.3million booked passenger assists in 2018-2019. This is an increase of 2% compared with the previous year.
In a set of proposals welcomed by Keith Williams, Chair of the Independent Review of the rail industry established by the Secretary of State for Transport in September 2018, the ORR recommends:
Providing help to passengers who need assistance
Radical reforms to transform accessibility include requiring train operators to cut the notice required for booking assistance from the current maximum of 24 hours to 10pm the day before travel by April 2020 and then making further reductions until it is two hours prior to travel by April 2022.
In addition, train operators must improve the reliability of the assistance all passengers receive – whether or not they book in advance.
Short terms reforms also include requiring train operators to ensure that staff are better trained to provide assistance, provide redress to passengers when booked assistance fails, adopt common branding for assisted travel services and make it easier to plan journeys by improving the quality of information available to passengers.
In the longer term, the ORR wants to see reforms including a review of funding for accessibility, the use of commercial incentives to maximise the number of journeys, and creating a system to enable passengers to buy tickets and book assistance in a single transaction.
The ORR’s suggested reforms to compensation could see new rules to raise passengers’ awareness of their rights by requiring train operators to tell passengers of their rights to compensation while they are on a delayed train and when they get off it. The rules would also require companies to process compensation claims in 20 working days, and publish data on how well they are meeting these standards, and to accept claims from Third Party Intermediaries which meet a new code of conduct.
The ORR recommends that operators automate their claims processes to the greatest possible extent; the various companies’ delay repay schemes are harmonised; and Transport Focus leads a national awareness-raising programme.
John Larkinson, ORR Chief Executive, said:
“Despite improvements made by the industry, the quality of assistance provided to passengers who need it falls below society’s expectations. And passengers are still not claiming the compensation they are entitled to when trains are delayed.
“A substantial change is needed and we look forward to continue working with the Williams Rail Review to help bring this about.”