Rail firms accused over compensation claims

Which? made “mystery shop” calls to 26 operators to ask if an elderly friend or relative was eligible for money to cover the cost of a taxi after the last train of the night was cancelled.

It said that in 12 cases, they were given “incorrect or inconsistent advice”.

Which? said it found that the six worst offenders were Cross Country, Grand Central, Greater Anglia, Heathrow Express, ScotRail and Stansted Express, and that they all told the caller that they could not make a claim.

Consumer law in place since October 2016 gives passengers the right to claim additional, consequential losses above the cost of their ticket if they can show that a service has not been provided with reasonable skill and care.

Which? said its study was “the latest in a catalogue of examples of train companies treating their passengers with breathtaking disregard”.

Alex Hayman, the consumer group‘s managing director of public markets, said: “They have been warned time and time again about their duties to ensure passengers are getting the money they are owed when they fail to deliver, yet they fail to act until forced.”

Mr Hayman called for enforcement action by the regulator, the Office of Rail and Road.

The Rail Delivery Group, representing train companies, said that over the last five years compensation payments had increased by almost 500% to £74m, partly thanks to quicker and easier forms of compensation, train announcements and email reminders.

It added that more could be done to improve customer information, and that it was carrying out a review of train operator websites.

The findings come amid continuing public concern about .

It was revealed over the weekend that one commuter was told by operator Great Northern that his compensation was being denied because there had been “an unusually large number of claims” submitted against his account.

The company said it was a standard response and that there were no issues with the operation of its “delay repay” system.

But it was accused by train drivers‘ union Aslef of finding “spurious reasons to avoid doing the decent thing”.