Rail firms come under fire over low refund levels 90%'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Compensation to passengers for train delays should be boosted by up to 80 per cent and stations should be urgently improved, the national group for rail passengers says.

Compensation to passengers for train delays should be boosted by up to 80 per cent and stations should be urgently improved, the national group for rail passengers says.

The industry came under fire yesterday for an "enormous variation" in reimbursements to passengers and for allowing too many stations to become unwelcoming and often threatening.

Management at Connex South East and South Central drew criticism for failing to improve on the minimum compensation it can lawfully pay - a 20 per cent refund for a service more than an hour late. Operators should pay full reimbursement, the Rail Passenger Council, said. Wendy Toms, a leading council member, said: "All passengers want to see improved rail services but if things do go wrong, passengers are entitled to compensation."

Ms Toms argued that refunds should always be in cash rather than vouchers. "If people have experienced an appalling journey, they don't want to use the rotten service again, so what use is a voucher?" she asked. She also urged companies to make claiming for compensation far easier, and said the Government's shadow Strategic Rail Authority should ensure that standards rose as part of its present franchise negotiations with a number of operators.

Paul Salveson, author of the council's report What Does the Passenger Want? said the industry had become fragmented. He said there was a huge difference between operating the 8.5 mile-long Island Line on the Isle of Wight and the enormously complicated Virgin Cross Country network taking in Eastbourne, Penzance, Glasgow and Aberdeen. However, with the right amount of investment there should be reasonable basic standards.

The report urged all companies to match "best practice" which included:

* Chiltern Railways' 100 per cent refund if a train is more than an hour late.

* Great Western's compensation equivalent to the cost of a single journey to those who reserve seats but have to stand.

* Help for the disabled on Midland Main Line and Valley Line.

* Anglia's extra spaces for bikes and heavy luggage.

* ScotRail's detailed standards for lavatory facilities, luggage space and seating.

It also urged companies to improve stations. "They have become the most neglected part of the railway, with far too many examples of inaccessible, unwelcoming and often threatening station environments," it said.

Comments