New independent rail complaints service launched

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Rail passengers unhappy with how their complaints have been handled will be able to use a new service from Monday.

The Dispute Resolution Ombudsman has been appointed to act as an independent body to hold train companies to account.

Rail passengers unhappy with how their complaints have been handled will be able to use a new service from Monday

Rail passengers unhappy with how their complaints have been handled will be able to use a new service from Monday

The ombudsman's decisions will be binding and rail firms will have to take action if failings are identified.

Passengers can go to the ombudsman if they are unhappy with the final response from a rail company or if their complaint has not been resolved within 40 working days.

The new service is being funded by train operators.

Office of Rail and Road figures show just 28% of people who made a complaint to a train company in 2017/18 were satisfied with the outcome.

The most common areas of complaints include punctuality/reliability, difficulties buying a ticket and not being able to find a seat.

Rail Minister Andrew Jones described the launch of the ombudsman service as a "significant step forward for passengers' rights" and urged companies to "take this opportunity to improve their complaints process".

Jacqueline Starr, a managing director at industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said the scheme will give passengers "even greater confidence that we're doing as much as we can to get to a fair outcome".

Anthony Smith, chief executive of independent passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: "We expect the ability of the Rail Ombudsman to impose binding decisions to resolve complaints - and the fact it can charge train companies fees for doing this - will drive improvements to the way most train operators handle passenger complaints."