What does the new Rail Ombudsman mean for customers?

The first ever Rail Ombudsman service is launching today, as part of the industry’s efforts to uphold the highest standards in its complaints process and to increase customer satisfaction.

Jacqueline Starr, Managing Director of Customer Experience at the Rail Delivery Group, outlines what this means for customers.

I’m pleased to announce that the independent Rail Ombudsman is launching today. It will further enhance the industry’s customer complaints process. If customers have a complaint about an event occurring from today onwards and they are unhappy with how it has been dealt with by a rail company, they can now appeal to the Rail Ombudsman.

The new Rail Ombudsman will put the customer at the heart of resolving complaints and give them even greater confidence that we’re doing as much as we can to get to a fair outcome. This will deliver on the rail industry’s commitment to improving customer experience.

The rail industry has worked with the Government and consumer groups to appoint Dispute Resolution Ombudsman to provide the service. The independent body has a strong track record of alternative dispute resolution in the retail sector and is an expert in consumer law. Their performance will be closely monitored by the Office of Rail & Road, Transport Focus and London TravelWatch.

Rail companies do everything they can to resolve complaints directly with customers, and data from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) shows most complaints (99%) are dealt with this way, without the need to go through an appeals process. Now, customers have the added assurance that the Rail Ombudsman will oversee the process.

The new Rail Ombudsman also means it’s no longer possible for complaints to become deadlocked between a rail company and a customer. It will review appeals with a view to resolving them by mediation or by issuing a formal, binding ruling if no agreement between the customer and the company can be reached.

For the first time, this independent body has the power to make rail companies act if it identifies failings. This will build on the important work by Transport Focus and London TravelWatch, who have had a great deal of success over many years, but have had no powers to compel operators to come up with binding resolutions.

The new Rail Ombudsman is part of the railway’s plan to change and improve. Working in partnership, the industry will secure £85 billion of additional economic benefit, increase customer satisfaction, boost local communities and create more and better jobs in rail.

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