Delays are the greatest cause of rail complaints: Punctuality of services accounts for a quarter of disputes
- The Office of Rail and Road said passengers are angry over late trains
- Rail users are also annoyed over unreliable services and broken down trains
- Ticket machines and kiosks in stations are problematic for 8% of complainants
- Complaints on Virgin's each coast service have increased dramatically
Delays are by far the biggest source of frustration for rail passengers, official figures show.
A report from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) show ‘punctuality’ and ‘reliability’ of services generate almost a quarter (23 per cent) of complaints.
This is almost three times more than the next most common grievance – ticket machines and kiosks - which caused 8 per cent of disputes.
Almost one quarter of all disputes on Britain's railways come from complaints by passengers over the punctuality and reliability of rail services across the country
Ticket machines and kiosks at rail stations cause eight per cent of disputes among passengers
The latest figures which cover July to August last year showed the number of complaints per 100,000 journeys - or the ‘complaints rate’ - actually dipped 2.2 per cent from the same period the previous year to 28.7.
But a number of operators including Virgin Trains, Great Western Railway and Northern have seen a surge in disputes with disgruntled passengers.
Complaints against the Virgin Trains East Coast have more than doubled in a year – rising 114 per cent.
The service – which connects London and Edinburgh - received 142 complaints per 100,000 journeys.
But in its case delays did not register as a major problem.
Almost a third of these (30.1 per cent) were about the state of the facilities on board, just under 27 per cent were about online ticket purchases, and 6.6 per cent were about packed trains where there was not enough room to sit or stand.
The ORR stressed one reason for the big rise was the low complaints rate in the same quarter in 2016.
It said this may have been due its failure to resolve disputes efficiently.
Virgin’s West Coast Line which runs from London to Glasgow was also hit with a 7pc rise in complaints.
Almost a fifth were about delayed trains.
It received 154 complaints per 100,000 journeys – the joint second highest rate with the Caledonian Sleeper.
The top spot was taken by Grand Central, which runs from Sunderland to London Kings Cross.
GWR also received a 62 per cent rise in complaints – more than one in ten of which were about not having enough room to sit and stand.
Virgin West Coast was identified as having the worst record at handling complaints.
Rail operators are meant to resolve disputes within 20 working days.
But the franchise only managed to meet this deadline in 76 per cent of cases, down from 88 per cent from the previous year.
In contrast nine operator including Southeastern and Govia Thameslink Railway, which operates the troubled Southern franchise, resolved all their complaints within this time period.
Alex Hayman, managing director of public markets at consumer group Which? said:
‘Train companies still aren’t adequately dealing with the vast majority of disgruntled passengers’ complaints, from problems with late and dirty trains through to issues buying their tickets.This dysfunctional system adds insult to injury for passengers.’
The figures emerge as rail passengers have been hit by a fresh wave of strikes this week, and are reeling from biggest fare hike in five years.
Which? Recently reported more than seven million journeys were delayed by more than half an hour last year – meaning the passengers were eligible for compensation.
Independent watchdog Transport Focus has estimated that around two thirds of passengers eligible for a pay out do not complain.
A spokesperson for Virgin Trains, said: ‘We welcome feedback from our customers as it helps us identify any problems with our services and quickly put them right. Complaint statistics are not the best way to measure passenger satisfaction and in the most recent independent survey by the industry watchdog, Transport Focus, over 91 per cent of Virgin Trains customers rated us as providing a good service.’
A spokesman for Great Western said: ‘We have seen complaints fall by 75 per cent in the last ten years and have worked hard to improve the service we offer our passengers, especially in providing information during periods of disruption. We are disappointed to see them head in the opposite direction this quarter.’
A spokesman for Northern said: ‘We are committed to addressing all customer complaints and firmly believe feedback is vital if we are to continue to improve the service we offer.
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