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All across the Great Western territory => Your rights and redress => Topic started by: JayMac on November 26, 2018, 04:55:49 am



Title: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: JayMac on November 26, 2018, 04:55:49 am
https://www.railombudsman.org

After what seems like much delay since the idea was first raised in mid 2015, following consultation in the transport sector on the Consumer Rights Act, a Rail Ombudsman service finally starts today. A private members bill was put before Parliament in December 2016. Parliament decided against legislation and asked the Rail Delivery Group to set up a service. The go-ahead was given in February 2018, and a service provider appointed in July 2018.

I suppose a long delay in introducing the scheme was to be expected. This is the rail industry after all.

It's worth noting here also that the Consumer Rights Act 2015 transport sector consultation also proposed compensation for delays of 15 minutes or more across the rail sector. That still hasn't been achieved, with only a handful of TOCs currently offering it. And of course there is still one major TOC that hasn't even introduced the supposed industry standard Delay Repay, despite it being a proviso of their franchise agreement of March 2015. That being our very own GWR. The agreement spoke of "good faith" and "intention" to introduce Delay Repay on GWR by September 2017. And yet it's still not implemented.

Back to the Ombudsman. From the Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/nov/26/new-ombudsman-gives-rail-commuters-a-fast-track-for-complaints):

Quote
New ombudsman gives rail commuters a fast track for complaints

Regulator criticised for not tackling issues such as rising fares or complicated tariffs

Figures show fewer than half of the rail passengers who complained last year were satisfied with the response, but only 1.1% moved to an appeal process. Passengers dissatisfied with how train companies handle complaints can now appeal to an independent arbiter, as a new rail ombudsman service comes into force today. The ombudsman will have binding powers over train firms should it uphold a customer complaint.

But the service has been criticised by Labour as toothless and unable to tackle important issues facing passengers such as rocketing fares and complicated pricing tariffs that vary from one operator to another.

The ombudsman will focus on providing a free service to passengers objecting to an operator’s response, or if a complaint has not been resolved within 40 days. Train companies both fund the ombudsman and have agreed to abide by its rulings. The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, said it showed the industry was trying to “uphold the highest standards” in its complaints processes which have come under criticism from consumer groups. According to data from the Office of Rail and Road, fewer than half of rail passengers who complained last year felt their issues received an adequate response, although only 1.1% of complaints ended up in an appeal process.

The ombudsman will deal primarily with disputes about delayed trains and passenger compensation.

More than £80m was paid out in 2017-18 to passengers for delays – a figure that is likely to have escalated significantly following the timetable chaos in May this year, which saw thousands of services cancelled and severely delayed. But a Department for Transport study published last month found that only 39% of eligible passengers claimed compensation for delays, with most of the rest saying it was not worth the time and effort.

Andrew Jones, the new rail minister, said: “This is a significant step forward for passengers’ rights. This independent ombudsman will make sure passengers are heard and that they get a fair deal when train companies fall short. Rail firms must take this opportunity to improve their complaints process and to increase customer satisfaction.”

Labour however gave a muted welcome. Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said: “With over 50m products, the UK rail fare system is probably one of the most complex in the world. Passengers urgently need simpler and more affordable fares. The rail ombudsman’s voluntary code and limited powers will do little to address these problems.”

The service will be provided by a private company, the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman, which has so far concentrated on consumer disputes in the furniture and removals sector.

Anthony Smith, the chief executive of the passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said the service was “a welcome step forward for rail passengers” that would improve complaints handling. He added: “We will continue to deal with many issues raised by passengers that fall outside the remit of this scheme and we will monitor closely the way the ombudsman operates to make sure it really works for passengers.”

Alex Hayman of the consumer group Which?, which has highlighted problems with the process, said the launch of the ombudsman was “a positive step for passengers, who have felt for too long like their complaints are not being taken seriously”.


I remain to be convinced that an Ombudsman set up and funded by the rail industry's own talking shop, the Rail Delivery Group, and provided by a body with no experience in the transport sector, will be much of an improvement in dealing with passenger complaints. I hope I'm wrong but this service should have been backed by legislation. There will be no oversight or teeth, as the train operators won't face any legal consequences for failing to meet Ombudsman decisions. There is no explanation I can find on the Rail Ombudsman website that explains what 'binding' means, nor any details of what censure TOCs face if they fail to adhere to the Ombudsman's decisions or timescales.

I don't doubt that the people appointed to run the service are well versed in dealing with consumer complaints, I just have concerns about how those decisions will be enforced if they favour the consumer.

I also hope the long delay in implementating the service has allowed for sufficient training in the intracacies of the operator/passenger relationship, the byzantine fares system (will routine overcharging be addressed for example?) and I hope the Ombudsman can drive up customer service standards across the industry. If it only focuses on getting passengers delay compensation that has been refused then I'm doubtful it will achieve much.

https://www.railombudsman.org


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: grahame on November 26, 2018, 09:23:58 am
Also made the BBC - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46338581

Quite a long piece

Quote
Rail passengers who are unhappy about how their complaints have been handled will be able to appeal via a service launched on Monday.

The Dispute Resolution Ombudsman is an independent body designed to hold train companies to account.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: ChrisB on November 26, 2018, 09:33:01 am
I have the same fears....Furniture Ombudsman offshoot...little synergy there, but they won the tender apparently.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: TaplowGreen on November 26, 2018, 06:28:49 pm
It'll certainly give GWR pause for thought on the delays in replying to correspondence/complaints/compensation claims that have been ongoing for 2 years now - one of any Ombudsman's focus is unreasonable length of time taken to resolve customer issues.

I've worked in several sectors where I've had to work with Ombudsman Services and my experience is that they tend to be fair to all parties but tenacious on behalf of the customer and rigorous in their scrutiny of the service providers - the individuals doing the investigation don't have to be expert in the sector to achieve this successfully - the rail companies will be expected to cooperate fully and with an "open book" attitude if they wish to avoid censure.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: eightonedee on November 26, 2018, 09:13:26 pm
I hope that the optimists are right. I was told some years ago that in local government the most feared action by an aggrieved person was a referral to the ombudsman. It would subject them to thorough scrutiny and a published report which will not spare them if there has been maladministration.

Publication of outcomes and an annual report on each TOC summarising the failings revealed by the past year's findings, to be taken into account in the franchise awarding process would be helpful. If DfT/ORR could be persuaded to use this as the basis for putting forward (and enforcing) suitable improvement plans based on such reports, so much the better. Too much to hope for? 


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: TaplowGreen on November 26, 2018, 09:29:35 pm
I hope that the optimists are right. I was told some years ago that in local government the most feared action by an aggrieved person was a referral to the ombudsman. It would subject them to thorough scrutiny and a published report which will not spare them if there has been maladministration.

Publication of outcomes and an annual report on each TOC summarising the failings revealed by the past year's findings, to be taken into account in the franchise awarding process would be helpful. If DfT/ORR could be persuaded to use this as the basis for putting forward (and enforcing) suitable improvement plans based on such reports, so much the better. Too much to hope for? 

You're absolutely right re: Local Government Ombudsman, and I have seen at first hand the consequences of a (justified) finding of maladministration which involved the sudden retirement of one very senior manager & an invitation to another that he was free to utilise his talents elsewhere. With his P45.

Let's hope the Rail Ombudsman has similarly sharp teeth.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: IndustryInsider on November 29, 2018, 10:39:49 am
It's worth noting here also that the Consumer Rights Act 2015 transport sector consultation also proposed compensation for delays of 15 minutes or more across the rail sector. That still hasn't been achieved, with only a handful of TOCs currently offering it. And of course there is still one major TOC that hasn't even introduced the supposed industry standard Delay Repay, despite it being a proviso of their franchise agreement of March 2015. That being our very own GWR. The agreement spoke of "good faith" and "intention" to introduce Delay Repay on GWR by September 2017. And yet it's still not implemented.

Being implemented by GWR early next year.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: JayMac on November 29, 2018, 11:03:08 am
It's worth noting here also that the Consumer Rights Act 2015 transport sector consultation also proposed compensation for delays of 15 minutes or more across the rail sector. That still hasn't been achieved, with only a handful of TOCs currently offering it. And of course there is still one major TOC that hasn't even introduced the supposed industry standard Delay Repay, despite it being a proviso of their franchise agreement of March 2015. That being our very own GWR. The agreement spoke of "good faith" and "intention" to introduce Delay Repay on GWR by September 2017. And yet it's still not implemented.

Being implemented by GWR early next year.

Excellent news, and not before time. Any quotable source for that?


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: grahame on November 29, 2018, 11:06:39 am
It's worth noting here also that the Consumer Rights Act 2015 transport sector consultation also proposed compensation for delays of 15 minutes or more across the rail sector. That still hasn't been achieved, with only a handful of TOCs currently offering it. And of course there is still one major TOC that hasn't even introduced the supposed industry standard Delay Repay, despite it being a proviso of their franchise agreement of March 2015. That being our very own GWR. The agreement spoke of "good faith" and "intention" to introduce Delay Repay on GWR by September 2017. And yet it's still not implemented.

Being implemented by GWR early next year.

Excellent news, and not before time. Any quotable source for that?

I have it from senior people within GWR / been in planning for quite a while.    Of course, at that level of promise one or two things have slipped in the past;  I too would be interested to see a quotable source.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: IndustryInsider on November 29, 2018, 11:14:29 am
From Mark Hopwood in a staff briefing.  Not sure if it’s straight to the 15 minute version though.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: CMRail on November 29, 2018, 04:53:00 pm
From Mark Hopwood in a staff briefing.  Not sure if it’s straight to the 15 minute version though.

Mark Hopwood and communication in the same sentence? I feel sick.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: TaplowGreen on November 29, 2018, 05:15:24 pm
From Mark Hopwood in a staff briefing.  Not sure if it’s straight to the 15 minute version though.

Mark Hopwood and communication in the same sentence? I feel sick.

I expect it was a virtual Mark Hopwood, or a hologram.......or maybe via a note shoved out from under the Boardroom door?


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: Robin Summerhill on November 30, 2018, 05:58:25 pm
I hope that the optimists are right. I was told some years ago that in local government the most feared action by an aggrieved person was a referral to the ombudsman. It would subject them to thorough scrutiny and a published report which will not spare them if there has been maladministration.

Publication of outcomes and an annual report on each TOC summarising the failings revealed by the past year's findings, to be taken into account in the franchise awarding process would be helpful. If DfT/ORR could be persuaded to use this as the basis for putting forward (and enforcing) suitable improvement plans based on such reports, so much the better. Too much to hope for? 

You're absolutely right re: Local Government Ombudsman, and I have seen at first hand the consequences of a (justified) finding of maladministration which involved the sudden retirement of one very senior manager & an invitation to another that he was free to utilise his talents elsewhere. With his P45.

Let's hope the Rail Ombudsman has similarly sharp teeth.

After reading some of the (other) posts on this thread it appears that many folk may not fully understand the role of an Ombudsman. I spent 9 years (1995 to 2004) as a Formal Complaints Officer for a Housing Association and as such was the officer who got the "stick" from both the Housing Ombudsman and the tenants who made the complaints. I felt that the overridingly important point was to resolve complaints before they got anywhere near the Ombudsman, and in those 9 years I only had 3 complaints that the Ombudsman took on, and of those I won two and the third was a draw ;)

Unfortunately not all complaints procedures work in that way. I once went to a conference where a new Housing Ombudsman was introducing himself. There were a number of presentations, one of which was from a Complaints Officer from a Housing Association in the north west who, to me, appeared to have lost sight of what a complaints procedure was supposed to be for, and was treating the whole thing as a "production line" to get complaints to the Ombudsman as quickly as possible. This sort of thing may well happen with the railway industry as some TOCs may have better complaints procedures (and officers dealing with complaints) than others. As I understand the situation, as passengers only have a contract with the TOC (and not Network Rail or the ROSCOs) then it could only be the TOCs that can be complained about, or at least complained to.

It is also pertinent to bear in mind that an Ombudsman will generally refer a complaint back to the organisation that is being complained about if the complaint has not completed their internal complaints procedure. This being the case, it will be seen that it is the Ombudsman that decides whether to take a case on, not the complainant, so a complaint to the Ombudsman in itself will not guarantee an Ombudsman investigation.

Finally, it is not an Ombudsman's job to produce detailed annual reports on matters outside of their remit, as 81D hopes - there will probably be no annual reports on individual TOC performances. Annual reports (in my day anyway) simply summarised the work of the Ombudsman, identifying trends in complaints and, if individual examples are provided, they will be anonymised.



Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: plymothian on December 01, 2018, 08:55:51 am
From Mark Hopwood in a staff briefing.  Not sure if it’s straight to the 15 minute version though.

Mark Hopwood and communication in the same sentence? I feel sick.

I expect it was a virtual Mark Hopwood, or a hologram.......or maybe via a note shoved out from under the Boardroom door?

GWR Connect issue w/c 25 November:

Quote
[...]
Early next year we’ll go live with Delay Repay, the national scheme that train companies use to compensate customers for unexpected delays or cancellations. It’s all part of an industry-wide plan to improve customer experience on the railway – and will make the often-complex process for making a claim clearer, helping us find quicker resolutions for customers. This is something that we know from our GEMs training is key to customer excellence, and more information about the scheme will follow.

 

This week a new ombudsman launched, which will give rail passengers a fast track for complaints. It’s good news for customers, who will now have an official body to escalate complaints on their behalf.
[..]


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: grahame on December 01, 2018, 11:53:47 am
After reading some of the (other) posts on this thread it appears that many folk may not fully understand the role of an Ombudsman. ...

[snip]

It is also pertinent to bear in mind that an Ombudsman will generally refer a complaint back to the organisation that is being complained about if the complaint has not completed their internal complaints procedure. This being the case, it will be seen that it is the Ombudsman that decides whether to take a case on, not the complainant, so a complaint to the Ombudsman in itself will not guarantee an Ombudsman investigation.

The Ombudsman really should be the point of call of last resort - the final safety net.  I think you agree that, Robin Summerhill, as someone with considerable experience in the area.  There is one specific issue I would bring to the attention of the Ombudsman if it lies within his/their juristiction.  If the Ombudsman chooses to ask GWR before taking it up in detail, and they fix it, so much the better

Melksham to London return fares are (2018 prices) £171.60 (any time), £72.30 (off peak) and £54.30 (super off peak).

The Super Off Peak ticket is valid on any train on a Saturday or Sunday, so why does the ticket machone offer the Off Peak ticket on its front screen, at an £18 higher price than the ticket most people want at the weekend?   The next return train from London that is valid off peak but not super off peak isn't until Monday afternoon!

The issues has been raised multiple times with GWR, but the answer has been "too difficult with the technology we have".  It's also to their £18 advantage each time someone buys a more expensive ticket than they need.

I grant you that you can find the Super Off Peak ticket on other menus if you ask for "other ticket types", but even then the machine does not make the difference clean, in both cases telling to that the tickets are not valid on some peak trains Monday to Friday, and suggesting you enquire at a ticket office for further details.

I understand that this issue also applies at some other stations ... a sensible fix at Melksham would be for the machine to offer super off peak on weekends and public holidays; Monday to Friday after 09:30 you could argue.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: Robin Summerhill on December 01, 2018, 08:48:39 pm
I shall put my Complaints Officer's hat back on temporarily on to look at Graham's query :)

Before producing their report an Ombudsman, and indeed a competent Complaints Officer, will be looking for the answers to two basic questions: (1) did the organisation correctly follow its contract with the complainant and its policies and procedure before reaching its initial conclusions on the case, and (2) even if it did, was the outcome fair, just and reasonable given the circumstances? The contract with the complainant is a very important point - any contract will exist between the TOC and the passenger (in my previous role it was the tenancy agreement the tenant signed with the landlord). At that seminar I mentioned in the earlier post the Ombudsman pointed out one of the commonest initial mistakes landlords make - when he takes on a case he was often sent a blank copy of the current tenancy agreement, but that would not be good enough. He wanted a copy of the agreement the tenant signed at the time the tenancy commenced, and that may have been as long as 50 years ago where the conditions of tenancy might not have been the same as they are now. A similar problem could arise with a railway-related complaint if the terms and conditions of carriage had changed since the original incident, because a TOC could not rely on complying with current T&Cs if they were different at the time the incident occurred.

The first question that springs to mind about Graham's scenario is whether a contract between an individual and a TOC actually exists before a ticket is purchased? If not I don't think a complaint would be upheld but (a big but and here is where the "fair just and reasonable" test comes in) were the off peak ticket to be purchased and it then came to light that the customer could have completed their journey with a cheaper ticket had they realised that one was available, I would say that a case could be made for the refund of the difference between the two. I do not think that an Ombudsman would agree that simply having the cheaper option available on the machine (that the intending passenger may not have spotted) would be a justifiable defence that would stand up to scrutiny. "He should have opened his eyes Guv" wouldn't hold water, in my view at least, if for no other reason that a partially sighted individual may be using this unmanned machine, or someone in a hurry when the train is in the platform and staff are blowing whistles for all they are worth.

The TOC should start from the premise that the intending passenger knows absolutely nothing about the various ticketing options and should be doing all it could to help them. I have to admit that even I, with not inconsiderable experience of railway ticketing, have managed to buy myself a period off peak return to WSM when I meant to buy a off peak day return, and an anytime return to Bristol when I wanted an off peak one. If I can do it, can we really expect the ordinary travelling public to get it right every time?

Whilst I would be tempted to agree with the suggestion that the machine could be programmed to stop showing the off peak fare when it is not necessary, I would first need to know whether it is unnecessary in all circumstances. Does the off peak return convey different rights? I specifically wonder whether it is an off peak period return allowing return travel within the next 7 days, for example, whilst the super off peak offering does not? Or perhaps the super off peak is only valid via Lacock/Chippenham whilst the off peak may give the options of travel via Bath and/or the Berks & Hants?


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: grahame on December 02, 2018, 02:23:25 pm
I shall put my Complaints Officer's hat back on temporarily on to look at Graham's query :)

Much appreciated

Quote
Before producing their report an Ombudsman, and indeed a competent Complaints Officer, will be looking for the answers to two basic questions: (1) did the organisation correctly follow its contract with the complainant and its policies and procedure before reaching its initial conclusions on the case, and (2) even if it did, was the outcome fair, just and reasonable given the circumstances? The contract with the complainant is a very important point - any contract will exist between the TOC and the passenger (in my previous role it was the tenancy agreement the tenant signed with the landlord). At that seminar I mentioned in the earlier post the Ombudsman pointed out one of the commonest initial mistakes landlords make - when he takes on a case he was often sent a blank copy of the current tenancy agreement, but that would not be good enough. He wanted a copy of the agreement the tenant signed at the time the tenancy commenced, and that may have been as long as 50 years ago where the conditions of tenancy might not have been the same as they are now. A similar problem could arise with a railway-related complaint if the terms and conditions of carriage had changed since the original incident, because a TOC could not rely on complying with current T&Cs if they were different at the time the incident occurred.

To answere (1) My understanding is that the franchise contract requires the TOC to sell the lowest price tickets for the journeys being made at the ticket office, but may offer a reduced set at machines. So it would actually be within the rules for the machine not to offer the super off peak, even on a subsidiary menu that customers had to know to select.

However, to answer (2). No,  don't think it's fair / justified / reasonable.

No change of TOC between ticket sale or use (thank goodness, we haven't got that complexity!

Quote
The first question that springs to mind about Graham's scenario is whether a contract between an individual and a TOC actually exists before a ticket is purchased? If not I don't think a complaint would be upheld but (a big but and here is where the "fair just and reasonable" test comes in) were the off peak ticket to be purchased and it then came to light that the customer could have completed their journey with a cheaper ticket had they realised that one was available, I would say that a case could be made for the refund of the difference between the two. I do not think that an Ombudsman would agree that simply having the cheaper option available on the machine (that the intending passenger may not have spotted) would be a justifiable defence that would stand up to scrutiny. "He should have opened his eyes Guv" wouldn't hold water, in my view at least, if for no other reason that a partially sighted individual may be using this unmanned machine, or someone in a hurry when the train is in the platform and staff are blowing whistles for all they are worth.

Interesting question about when the contract exists.

Agreed the case could strongly be made for the refund of the difference by a person caught out and paying an extra £18 - but I suspect that would only catch the tip of the iceberg of what is (in my view) an unjutified regime of overcharging that has gone on for years with the excuse of it being "technically not possbile to sort it out due to the limited capabilities of the ticket machines"

Quote
The TOC should start from the premise that the intending passenger knows absolutely nothing about the various ticketing options and should be doing all it could to help them. I have to admit that even I, with not inconsiderable experience of railway ticketing, have managed to buy myself a period off peak return to WSM when I meant to buy a off peak day return, and an anytime return to Bristol when I wanted an off peak one. If I can do it, can we really expect the ordinary travelling public to get it right every time?

I totally agree - the whole system is so complex that it defies even the brightest of us!

Quote
Whilst I would be tempted to agree with the suggestion that the machine could be programmed to stop showing the off peak fare when it is not necessary, I would first need to know whether it is unnecessary in all circumstances. Does the off peak return convey different rights? I specifically wonder whether it is an off peak period return allowing return travel within the next 7 days, for example, whilst the super off peak offering does not? Or perhaps the super off peak is only valid via Lacock/Chippenham whilst the off peak may give the options of travel via Bath and/or the Berks & Hants

The only difference I am aware of on Off Peak v Super Off Peak is the time the passenger may leave London on a Monday to Friday on his return journey. Length of validity, routing is the same.   There are (of couse ;-) ) other tickets available for other routes ...

The chance of someone buying a ticket on a Saturday to return on the two specific trains that are off peak but not super off peak on the following Monday is ... slim.    And do note that if you buy a super off peak and change your mind and want to come back on an off peak train, you can "excess" your ticket - upgrade it.   A particularly amusing thing to ask the chap and  chapesses on the bridge at Paddington to do for you as you make for the 19:00 - indications are that it's not exactly straightforward for the to work out either, but that's another story.

Really appreciate your expert thoughts on this one, Robin Summerhill - as I may have said, it was just about the only case  that I'm currently aware of where a reference through might help.    We have had a number of other interesting cases but usually managed to get them resolved if they're clearly unfair or wrong.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: Robin Summerhill on December 02, 2018, 04:01:01 pm
Thanks Graham. Your reply has brought up a few additional points that may be worth examining.

I suspect that the legal situation in contract law will apply as the person arrives at the machine, unless there are special rules for railways that I am not aware of. At this stage no contract exists, and the range of options available on the machine would be, in contract law, an "invitation to treat." Once the ticket has been purchased the contract has been entered into ie. after you pay the fare the TOC undertakes to transport you on the journey chosen.

I doubt that a "tip of the iceberg" argument would hold water in a complaint because it cannot be proven one way or the other. You could say "there's thousands of 'em" the TOC could say "We aren't aware of any other cases" and neither of you could provide evidence to support your respective arguments. The refund idea would probably stand up to greater scrutiny because the TOCs are quick enough to pick up on a passenger who hasn't paid enough for their journey! The old proverb about sauce for geese and ganders ought to apply.

However, the biggest difficulty that I can see is how the overcharged passenger finds out about the overcharging. I don't think it would be reasonable to expect on train staff to be walking Selective Prices manuals, as they would effectively have to be. Melksham may just be one stop amongst many and, when you take into account that there are Cheltenham to Southampton, and Weymouth to Swindon trains stopping at Melksham, it will soon become apparent how many unmanned stations that those trains will be stopping at, all with potentially similar quirks of pricing of their own.

This scenario is less likely to occur at a staffed station where the booking clerk would actually be under an obligation to sell the customer the lowest-priced ticket, and this fact would undermine a TOC trying to argue that it is "technically not possible to sort it out due to the limited capabilities of the ticket machines." An Ombudsman would respond to that "defence" on the lines of "well make it possible with all ticket machines or provide manned booking offices to all stations." If given the choice I wonder which they'd prefer...? ;)

Going back to my role with housing complaints and the housing Ombudsman, this very point is the one that makes many organisations come second in Ombudsman investigations. "We can't do anything about it because we can't afford to" is a card which, if played, will inevitably result in them losing.

By the way, a second or third TOC involved in a single journey would not add to complexity as far as the customer complaint was concerned. Their contract would be with the TOC who sold them the ticket; any others would effectively be subcontractors. In exactly the same way, if the gas boiler in your rented house is serviced and blows up 2 days later, your claim would be against your landlord and not the gas service engineer. Whether your landlord would wish to take the case up with the servicing company would be their concern, not yours.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: grahame on December 03, 2018, 06:27:38 am
Thanks Graham. Your reply has brought up a few additional points that may be worth examining.

...


1. I don't think I was arguing that "tip of the iceberg" would change any decision - merely suggesting that in my understanding we are not looking at a one-off situation (so it's more importat go get it righted , perhaps)

2. The point at which is contact is formed is indeed when you buy the ticket - I'm not sure when in that process.  I have (and it doesn;t relate to the current question) understaood that if you have your ticket and turn up for a train cancelled by the train operator they are oblidge to get you there - weather, war and a couple of other things excepted, whereas if you turn up on the day to but your ticket (perhaps can't if the TVM is out of order) there is no contract in place and they are not oblidged to take you.

3. Totally agree that only a very few overcharged passengers will actually find out they could have bought an £18 less ticket.   My undertanding is that the problem applies across multiple (quite a few) unstaffed stations with ticket machines which are far enough from London / Readig to heva the three fare levels. It may also apply at stations with ticket offices which are only staffed for limited hours, during unstaffed hours.

4. In this case we are lookimg at a simgle TOC, but thanks for the clarification that it would apply if you change to a train run by another National network operator.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: Robin Summerhill on December 03, 2018, 11:18:06 am
Thanks Graham. Your reply has brought up a few additional points that may be worth examining.

...


1. I don't think I was arguing that "tip of the iceberg" would change any decision - merely suggesting that in my understanding we are not looking at a one-off situation (so it's more importat go get it righted , perhaps)

2. The point at which is contact is formed is indeed when you buy the ticket - I'm not sure when in that process.  I have (and it doesn;t relate to the current question) understaood that if you have your ticket and turn up for a train cancelled by the train operator they are oblidge to get you there - weather, war and a couple of other things excepted, whereas if you turn up on the day to but your ticket (perhaps can't if the TVM is out of order) there is no contract in place and they are not oblidged to take you.

3. Totally agree that only a very few overcharged passengers will actually find out they could have bought an £18 less ticket.   My undertanding is that the problem applies across multiple (quite a few) unstaffed stations with ticket machines which are far enough from London / Readig to heva the three fare levels. It may also apply at stations with ticket offices which are only staffed for limited hours, during unstaffed hours.

4. In this case we are lookimg at a simgle TOC, but thanks for the clarification that it would apply if you change to a train run by another National network operator.

I have yet to fathom how to split quotes on this forum so I shall answer your bullet points instead! :) There will be a bit of overlap anyway!

1 and 3. It crossed my mind that there is a way (or should be a way) to quantify the issue. Even in the days of Edmonson card tickets each booking office knew how many of each ticket they held in stock had been sold on any given day - they had to know that in order to balance the cash at the end of the day. GWR should therefore have records in their systems of how many off peak returns to Paddington were sold on days when a Super Off Peak ticket would suffice. This of course would also apply to any other station under their control. Given that it is possible to buy tickets through other agencies these days it might not pick up all of them, but we started off by talking about the ticket machine at Melksham, and that information should be available.

2. You raise an interesting point. As you say, it isn't really to do with the matters under discussion, but I looked at the National Conditions of Carriage to see if there was any guidance there. All I found was under section 28 "What happens when things go wrong" and a rather vaguely-worded paragraph 28.2 which reads:

"Where disruption prevents you from completing the journey for which your ticket is valid and is being used, any Train Company will, where it reasonably can, provide you with alternative means of travel to your destination, or if necessary provide overnight accommodation for you."

I suspect the inclusion of the phrase "and is being used" is intended to limit liability to journeys that are actually in progress at the time of the disruption. This would include, for example, giving passenger assistance to get home if the last train of the day was cancelled when using the return portion of their ticket, but a TOC might argue that it wouldn't necessarily apply to someone starting their journey on that self same train. I think that's a question for someone with a lot more legal expertise than I have :)


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: grahame on November 09, 2021, 05:28:51 pm
Revisiting  the Rail Ombusman (https://www.railombudsman.org) which has now been with us for a couple of years

Quote
The Rail Ombudsman is an independent, not-for-profit organisation. We offer a free, expert service to help sort out unresolved customer complaints about service providers within the rail industry.

Our vision is to inspire customer confidence and to deliver our service fairly to ensure the right outcome in every case. We also support the rail industry to raise standards.

If you have a complaint regarding a participating service provider which you have not been able to resolve with them, then we may be able to help you.

The Benefits of our Service
* ACCESS TO A FREE, INDEPENDENT AND EXPERT SERVICE
* CONFIDENCE IN A TRUSTED AND IMPARTIAL ASSESSMENT OF YOUR COMPLAINT
* FAIR AND TRANSPARENT OUTCOMES AND PUBLISHED CASE STUDIES
* DECISIONS WHICH ARE BINDING ON SERVICE PROVIDERS
* CUSTOMERS ARE NOT BOUND BY OUR DECISIONS AND REMAIN FREE TO PURSUE COMPLAINTS THROUGH ANOTHER CHANNEL
* FREE USE OF ONLINE RESOURCES INCLUDING HELPFUL GUIDES ON OUR WEBSITE

Now - I have a situation that has arisen since 28th July with South Western Railway - that they have decided to withdraw their through services from a couple of my local stations - services that I use - without any public consultation and they're leaving me with an inferior service. I have raised this with SWR, and indeed they went as far as sending one of their team to meet us in public last month, but they have not come up with any suitable outcome or suggestions.  A very unsatisfactory situation in which they tell us the decision's already taken, but we had no idea the question was even being asked.

Looks like exactly the sort of thing the Rail Ombudsman says (s)he looks into.   So I wrote up the case, filled in their forms (had to set up an account, so it looks like they optimise for multiple complaints from the same people!!) and put the case in.

Isn't it good to have a passenger's representative now for when things go sour?    Perhaps not:

Quote
CASE TRANSFERRED TO TRANSPORT FOCUS, REF R144050

Dear Mr Ellis,

Thank you for submitting your complaint to the Rail Ombudsman regarding South Western.

On further review into the nature of your complaint, unfortunately this is out of scope for the Rail Ombudsman. However, we have transferred your complaint to Transport Focus who may be able to further assist with this.

What Next?

There is no need to resubmit your complaint to Transport Focus as these have been passed over to them on your behalf by the Rail Ombudsman.

Transport Focus, contact details below, will be in contact regarding the next steps.

More details regarding out of scope complaints can be found in the Rail Ombudsman Consumer Guide by clicking here


Hmmmm ... what a wonderful case of "Smoke and Mirrors" ... let's pass the buck!
* Rail Ombusdman?
* Transport Focus?
* South Western Railway?
* Department for Transport?
At this point I would normally say "a case for my MP" ...


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: ChrisB on November 09, 2021, 05:49:09 pm
Reading what the ombudsman covers, it is clearly not the body dealing with removal of services


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: TaplowGreen on November 09, 2021, 09:29:52 pm
Reading what the ombudsman covers, it is clearly not the body dealing with removal of services

Exactly. Way outside of their remit.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: grahame on November 10, 2021, 06:12:19 am
Reading what the ombudsman covers, it is clearly not the body dealing with removal of services

Exactly. Way outside of their remit.

Yes, I agree.  But yet ... their headlines which I quoted above in this thread talk of sorting out unresolved customer complaints (yes, I have one), to inspire customer confidence (that's needed) and support the rail industry to raise standards (and in my view they need to do so with things like proper information and consultation and proper connections).

It was worth an ask. And worth having them made aware of a serious issue with one of their members with whom we are in deadlock. And I need to give them considerable credit by passing the query on promptly, and telling me they had done so.  A lot more responsive and customer-centric than many of the organisations around


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: Mark A on November 10, 2021, 02:40:56 pm
Agree with both sides. Yes, it's outside their remit, but it's also a terrible look.

*Heads off to Transport Focus*

Their correspondent: "I've been reminded that we don't have any say on timetabling issues" followed by another email "Do you know any lorry drivers?"

With regards to the Bristol to Waterloo direct trains, it's singular that while they can make recommendations, no organisation with the remit to represent passengers appears to have any teeth on this - or if they have teeth, they choose to keep them in the glass over it.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: ChrisB on November 10, 2021, 04:00:10 pm
No one has any teeth when it comes to ERMAs and the Treasury.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: grahame on November 11, 2021, 10:15:58 am
No one has any teeth when it comes to ERMAs and the Treasury.

And from Transport Focus ...

Quote
Dear Mr Ellis
 
Your complaint has come back to Transport Focus as the Rail Ombudsman consider it to be out of their remit.  I note from your application form to the Rail Ombudsman that you are already aware of Transport Focus position on this subject which has not changed although we are frustratingly unable to help.
 
I believe that you could try writing to the Department for Transport, if you haven’t done so already, although its likely that they will signpost you back to us.
 
I am sorry that we are able to help with this.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Sxxxx

I think she's left a "not" out of the last line.

Confirmation that neither of the passenger bodies that resolve issues with train companies is actually able to help in a case which really matter to a lot of people ...


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: Mark A on November 11, 2021, 05:30:31 pm
I'll attempt to put those responses into a flowchart. It'll need no additions to make it into a comedy.

Mark


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: Robin Summerhill on November 11, 2021, 08:21:25 pm
You like playing devil’s advocate from time to time and so do I!  ;D

When I was  Formal Complaints Officer for a housing association (internal Ombudsman if you like) who prided himself in solving complaints well before they got anywhere near the Housing Ombudsman, I used to ask two questions:

1.   Were all policies and procedures correctly followed?
2.   Even if they were, was the outcome fair and reasonable under the circumstances?

In this case I would ask whether any rules have been broken. For example, was the Bristol to Waterloo service included in the original franchise agreement? If so then a contract stipulation has not been adhered to, and you could catch them for that. If not and it is essentially a discretionary service, that argument will fail

Then I would ask what consultation requirements are in the franchise agreement. Have they broken any rules on this? If they have you have “got” them, if they haven’t they haven’t broken a rule there either.

One of the difficulties you will encounter is that there are no proposals to lose stations – each and every one remains open – and the journey(s) can still be made in full by rail, albeit with a change of trains at Salisbury.

So in truth, your complaint boils down to a lack of convenience both in terms of having to change trains and having poor connections (call it poor customer service of you like) but even so the matter leans towards the subjective. If you now have to change trains on what was once a through journey, any connection could be seen by some to be a poor connection. As regards changing trains and poor customer service, if, as I understand it, SWR want the stock to augment capacity on the Salisbury to Exeter route, they may argue that your resultant reduced service is more than outweighed by an improvement in service for others between Salisbury and Exeter. And an official body might well agree with them.

In addition of course, SWT are one class 159 short at the moment as a result of the mishap at Salisbury. Now might not be a very good time to argue for more coaching stock to be in service for that reason alone.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: ChrisB on November 11, 2021, 08:26:48 pm
The franchise agreement was superceded by the pandemic’s EMA & ERMA. It no longer exists


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: TaplowGreen on November 11, 2021, 08:33:15 pm
The franchise agreement was superceded by the pandemic’s EMA & ERMA. It no longer exists

..........and the Rail Ombudsman exists to deal with quality of service based on consumer rights, it specifically states that they cannot look into rail industry policies.

Perhaps you should complain to someone about the Ombudsman? Is there an Ombudsman Ombudsman?


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: Robin Summerhill on November 11, 2021, 09:41:23 pm
The franchise agreement was superceded by the pandemic’s EMA & ERMA. It no longer exists


Which type of agreement covers SWT operations is largely irrelevant. What is relevant is whether they have broken any agreement or commitment in the agreement that is currently in place.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: grahame on November 11, 2021, 09:53:11 pm
You like playing devil’s advocate from time to time and so do I!  ;D

I believe the answers to be "no" and "no".  And the DfT know it.

If everything had been followed correctly, we wouldn't have had to wait two cycles for the FOI response. And if the outcome had been fair and reasonable, we would not have such support not only from the public, but from the expert too.

Quote
When I was  Formal Complaints Officer for a housing association (internal Ombudsman if you like) who prided himself in solving complaints well before they got anywhere near the Housing Ombudsman, I used to ask two questions:

1.   Were all policies and procedures correctly followed?
2.   Even if they were, was the outcome fair and reasonable under the circumstances?

Having answers "no" and "no", Robin, much of the rest of your case is somewhat built on sand, and is very selective in what and how it is presented.

I think the conclusion we're coming to is that there is no-one charged with holding the decisions of the DfT to task, even where hardly anyone agrees with them or their messages. The Rail Ombudsman and Transport Focus are both charged with taking care of the farthings and mandated to ignore the guineas.

[snip]

Quote
So in truth, your complaint boils down to a lack of convenience both in terms of having to change trains and having poor connections (call it poor customer service of you like) but even so the matter leans towards the subjective. If you now have to change trains on what was once a through journey, any connection could be seen by some to be a poor connection.


Could - but isn't.  Take a look at the poll I ran, Robin , to check the validity of the connection offered. Only 1 in 40 felt that over 45 minutes was reasonable.  Whereas almost everyone is happy with up to 15 minutes.  And people make choices on how they feel and what you describe as "subjective" becomes objective.

Quote
As regards changing trains and poor customer service, if, as I understand it, SWR want the stock to augment capacity on the Salisbury to Exeter route, they may argue that your resultant reduced service is more than outweighed by an improvement in service for others between Salisbury and Exeter. And an official body might well agree with them.

Might ... but none has they have gone the other way

Quote
In addition of course, SWT are one class 159 short at the moment as a result of the mishap at Salisbury. Now might not be a very good time to argue for more coaching stock to be in service for that reason alone.

It does indeed give them a soundbite to use against those who haven't checked up on the details, read the FOI, or thought it through.  How useful for the DfT that most passengers all into that uninformed group - remember that you can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: Robin Summerhill on November 11, 2021, 11:33:31 pm
Having answers "no" and "no", Robin, much of the rest of your case is somewhat built on sand, and is very selective in what and how it is presented.

I think the conclusion we're coming to is that there is no-one charged with holding the decisions of the DfT to task, even where hardly anyone agrees with them or their messages. The Rail Ombudsman and Transport Focus are both charged with taking care of the farthings and mandated to ignore the guineas.

Your response is not unlike that from people who didn't like the contents and conclusions in my Complaints reports! That said, in the nine years I held that job only two of my complaints went to the Housing Ombudsman. In one case we "won" and in the other it was a draw (the compaimant was awarded £200 compensation rather than the £2500 he claimed)


Take a look at the poll I ran, Robin , to check the validity of the connection offered. Only 1 in 40 felt that over 45 minutes was reasonable.  Whereas almost everyone is happy with up to 15 minutes.  And people make choices on how they feel and what you describe as "subjective" becomes objective.

I agree that the current connections at Salisury are not good, as indeed I agreed with you the last time we met in person. But in terms of policy poll results mean nothing - as somebody said on TV only tonight, if there had been a poll/ referendum on the London congestion charge then there wouldn't be one

Quote
In addition of course, SWT are one class 159 short at the moment as a result of the mishap at Salisbury. Now might not be a very good time to argue for more coaching stock to be in service for that reason alone.

It does indeed give them a soundbite to use against those who haven't checked up on the details, read the FOI, or thought it through.  How useful for the DfT that most passengers all into that uninformed group - remember that you can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time.

I was merely making a statement of fact, not drawing any conclusions from it. But, if SWT are using that as an argument/ excuse - well, that's politics...


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: grahame on November 12, 2021, 06:18:01 am
The Rail Ombudsman has declined to take the case - just passed it on. Transport Focus have restated "we are frustratingly unable to help."    The case has not been looked at; rather we are told "the buck does not stop here".  You draw on similarities to your experience of complaints handling, and I would quite expect my disappointment to mirror the disappointment you would have engendered if people brought you a case and you and other bodies passed over it as being out of scope.

There are indeed multiple cases - the operational case, the passenger case, the legal case, the moral case, the political case, the sustainability case, the dogma case, the environment case, the business case, the financial case and the (wider) economic case. You have the cases short term, next-general-election term, medium term and long term. On some we are on stronger grounds than others.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: TaplowGreen on November 12, 2021, 07:16:26 am
The Rail Ombudsman has declined to take the case - just passed it on. Transport Focus have restated "we are frustratingly unable to help."    The case has not been looked at; rather we are told "the buck does not stop here".  You draw on similarities to your experience of complaints handling, and I would quite expect my disappointment to mirror the disappointment you would have engendered if people brought you a case and you and other bodies passed over it as being out of scope.

There are indeed multiple cases - the operational case, the passenger case, the legal case, the moral case, the political case, the sustainability case, the dogma case, the environment case, the business case, the financial case and the (wider) economic case. You have the cases short term, next-general-election term, medium term and long term. On some we are on stronger grounds than others.

You need to temper your disappointment with reality and perspective - the Rail Ombudsman declined to take the case as it is clearly outside their scope and remit - they have no authority to look into the issues you've raised - that is not passing the buck, that is being straightforward and managing your expectations.

They referred you, in good faith, to another body that they thought may be able to help - you yourself praised them for the manner in which they did this.

I suspect your angst would have been greater had they launched an investigation and then come back to you 6 weeks down the road to tell you that it was outside their remit.

The difficulty with getting passionate about a cause is that it's easy to suffer with tunnel vision, albeit well intentioned no doubt.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: Mark A on November 12, 2021, 08:05:31 am
Then I would ask what consultation requirements are in the franchise agreement. Have they broken any rules on this? If they have you have “got” them, if they haven’t they haven’t broken a rule there either.

Thanks, Robin, for this post, you make very good points. As ChrisB says elsewhere the franchises might be six feet under. Perhaps the DfT might need to be a bit more on their toes about the requirements of the Equality Act(2010) as the decision disadvantages women and also people who are disabled, or perhaps someone ought to pull the cork out of the bottle labelled 'Judicial review' and waft that scent beneath their noses. Works for other issues after all!

One of the difficulties you will encounter is that there are no proposals to lose stations – each and every one remains open – and the journey(s) can still be made in full by rail, albeit with a change of trains at Salisbury.

Yes, and this must resonate with experiences of the rail closures of the 60s, with a swathe of the system being used by few passengers, something which was occasionally followed by the 'Cock up or conspiracy' question - when passengers found that trains that had previously connected no longer did so.

So in truth, your complaint boils down to a lack of convenience both in terms of having to change trains and having poor connections (call it poor customer service of you like) but even so the matter leans towards the subjective.

A gross historical example for this must be when in 1962, passengers arriving at Nottingham Victoria for stations north found the majority of northbound services had ceased to run - and station staff instructed them to make their own way to the (much inferior) connections available at the Midland station, a mile away at the edge of the city centre.

In terms of convenience, some women travellers will look upon a long term 50 minute evening connection between two train companies which have low aspirations for their customers, at a station which is habitually  sparsely populated... this is an experience they'd rather not risk even if the physical risk is low, and they feel this way no matter how many staff or security cameras there are. GWR/ SWR have a completely different perspective on this to their travelling public.

In addition of course, SWT are one class 159 short at the moment as a result of the mishap at Salisbury. Now might not be a very good time to argue for more coaching stock to be in service for that reason alone.

Train operating companies simply lease their rolling stock, yes? No idea how it works when they pick up the phone and say 'Sorry, we've broken one' but is there a way for it not to end up being the customer's problem?


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: grahame on November 12, 2021, 08:17:54 am
You need to temper your disappointment with reality and perspective - the Rail Ombudsman declined to take the case as it is clearly outside their scope and remit - they have no authority to look into the issues you've raised - that is not passing the buck, that is being straightforward and managing your expectations.

They referred you, in good faith, to another body that they thought may be able to help - you yourself praised them for the manner in which they did this.

I suspect your angst would have been greater had they launched an investigation and then come back to you 6 weeks down the road to tell you that it was outside their remit.

The difficulty with getting passionate about a cause is that it's easy to suffer with tunnel vision, albeit well intentioned no doubt.

Indeed - the negative connotations of "passing the buck" are unfortunate and were not intended to be negative on the people there who responded. It was the correct thing they are mandated to do, which is indeed to pass on such serious systemic issues, and I am relieved they did it quickly.

There is much value to reading carefully everything that's written and indeed see the awkward as well as the supportive elements, and understanding them to be aware of the total picture.   But those elements will typically provide elements to be addressed within proposals and suggestion and rarely headlines.


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: grahame on January 19, 2022, 07:00:18 pm
During checking around and research, I came cross this screen of logos, showing just how complex our system is with so many companies and the need to select the right one to raise issues with.  Even more of a surprise - in amongst that little lot,  could not find Transport for London ... I guess you have to go elsewhere if you have a problem with them - London TravelWatch??

(http://www.wellho.net/pix/toctab.jpg)


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: stuving on January 19, 2022, 10:19:41 pm
During checking around and research, I came cross this screen of logos, showing just how complex our system is with so many companies and the need to select the right one to raise issues with.  Even more of a surprise - in amongst that little lot,  could not find Transport for London ... I guess you have to go elsewhere if you have a problem with them - London TravelWatch??

Indeed (https://tfl.gov.uk/help-and-contact/taking-your-complaint-further):
Quote
If you've made a complaint to us and are not satisfied with the response, there are further steps you can take.

We try to resolve your complaint the first time you contact us. If you are not satisfied with our response, tell us and we will ask a team manager to review it.

Taking your complaint further

If you are still unhappy with the outcome, you can ask London TravelWatch or the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) to consider your complaint.

  • London TravelWatch considers public transport complaints
  • The LGO considers complaints about streets and traffic


Title: Re: Rail Ombudsman launched - 26th November 2018
Post by: Trowres on June 30, 2022, 10:44:21 am

New consultation from ORR on the Rail Ombudsman (closing date 5th August 2022):-

Quote
We are consulting on:

  • proposals for an operating model for the future Rail Ombudsman, which specifies the functions it will perform and to what standard, as well as the way it will be constituted, governed and held to account; and
  • proposed licence modifications required as part of the ORR sponsorship process.


https://www.orr.gov.uk/search-consultations/consultation-draft-rail-ombudsman-operating-model (https://www.orr.gov.uk/search-consultations/consultation-draft-rail-ombudsman-operating-model)






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