TRAIN companies are continuing to “mislead” passengers about when they are entitled to apply for compensation, a consumer group has claimed.
Some operators are telling customers that they’re not liable for expenses like taxis when a train is cancelled, despite changes in industry rules, according to Which?.
A warning that rail firms will not pay out to cover any losses after a train is cancelled was removed from the National Rail Conditions of Travel (NRCoT) in March.
It was found that this rule wasn’t in line with the Consumer Rights Act (CRA), which has been in force for the rail industry since October 2016.
The consumer group made “mystery shop” phone calls to 26 operators, asking if an elderly friend or relative could claim compensation when the last train of the night was cancelled and they were forced to pay for a cab.
Almost half – 12 out of 26 – provided “incorrect or inconsistent advice”.
The six “worst offenders” – Cross Country, Grand Central, Greater Anglia, Heathrow Express, ScotRail and Stansted Express – all said that the customers couldn’t ask for a payout.
The two firms providing an airport link – Heathrow Express and Stansted Express – follow different terms and conditions but are still subject to consumer law.
Train companies advise passengers to claim compensation through their delay repay scheme, which makes payouts based on the length of delay and type of ticket.
The CRA gives customers the right to claim back any extra money they had to spend because their train was cancelled.
Alex Hayman from Which? said: “[The train companies] have been warned time and again about their duties to ensure their passengers are getting the money they are owed when they fail to deliver, yet they fail to act until forced.
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“The regulator must now start showing some teeth and take immediate enforcement action or the government has no choice but to step in and stand up for passengers and their rights.”
Jason Webb from the Rail Delivery Group, representing train companies, said: “Over the last five years, compensation payments have increased by almost 500 per cent to £74 million, supported by the introduction of quicker and easier forms of compensation, train announcements and email reminders.
“There is still even more we can do to improve customer information which is why we are carrying out a review of all train operator websites and are continuing to train our employees to ensure that customers get clear advice about how they can claim.”
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HERE'S how you can beat the rip-off rail fares:
Buy a season ticket – If you’re making the same journey frequently, for example, your daily comute to work, then you may find that it works out cheaper for you to buy a season ticket. But remember, you’ll need to fork out the initial upfront costs before you benefit from the savings.
Book in advance – Network Rail releases its new timetable 12 weeks before it starts, so train companies usually make tickets available at this time. Some operators release them even earlier but the key is to book early. Sign up to Trainline’s ticket alert service to find out when cheap advance fares go on sale for a particular journey you need.
Split your tickets – If you are taking a long train journey, you could save hundreds of pounds by splitting your tickets. A one-way advance ticket from Leeds to Oxford tomorrow costs £99.40. But split your ticket by travelling from Leeds to Birmingham New Street (£60.10) then from Birmingham New Street to Oxford (£18.50) and you pay £78.60. You often won’t even need to change trains and National Rail lets you split your ticket as long as the train calls at the stations you buy the tickets for.
Get a railcard – These can slash a third off the price of some tickets. They cost between £20 and £30 a year. For example, the 16-25 Railcard gives a third off ticket rates for full-time students of any age.
Hunt for cheap tickets – Don’t pay over the odds for tickets — and remember to compare prices before you buy. First, check the National Rail website, which is a great way to get an overview of routes and travel times. Then check RedSpottedHanky and Trainline to see if cheap fares are available. They will usually charge you to make a booking — between 25p and £1.50 — so factor that in.
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