National Rail Passenger “Charter”

I’ve been reading the National Rail Conditions of Carriage, party animal that I am, in particular the section on compensation for passengers affected by delayed and/or cancelled services. It reads (emphasis added):

42. Compensation for delays

(a) Where delays, cancellations or poor service arise for reasons within the control of a Train Company or Rail Service Company, you are entitled to compensation in accordance with the arrangements set out in that Train Company’s Passenger’s Charter. This can be obtained from the relevant Train Company’s ticket offices, customer relations office or internet site.

(b) The amount of compensation offered by each Train Company in its Passenger’s Charter varies from Train Company to Train Company. However, if you are more than one hour late at your destination station you will, as a minimum, be entitled to compensation in the form of travel vouchers in accordance with the table below:

The table below then goes on to list various ticket types and the amount of compensation due, most notably (emphasis added):

  • Single ticket – 20% of the price paid
  • Return ticket with delay on both the outward and return journey – 20% of the price paid

It then continues:

(c) This Condition 42 sets out the entire liability of the relevant Train Companies in relation to delays, cancellations and poor service. Except as shown in this Condition 42, the Train Companies do not accept liability for any loss (including consequential loss) caused by the delay and or cancellation of any train. However, they will consider additional claims in exceptional circumstances.

Now I realise that these figures are minimums and that train companies can at their discretion increase the compensation if they see fit, but really, how likely is this at the end of the day? It really isn’t as if they’re in competition with each other for passengers; they’re each given a franchise, which in most cases represents a specific territory to run without significant competition from other companies. So their only obligations to passengers are at the end of the day just those set out in the conditions of carriage.

20% is bullshit, frankly. People aren’t going to get out of their cars if they think that the only recourse they have for being delayed for over an hour is 20% of their ticket price, no matter how expensive their ticket was in the first place. Not good enough. The train companies should be made to compensate 100% and then some if they inflict such inconvenience and poor service upon their customers. Lack of accountability is a huge part of what makes the railway system in this country such a huge joke.

The next condition reads as follows, and I include it because it applied to me the other week after my train home went the wrong way:

43. Help from Train Companies: if you are stranded

If disruption caused by circumstances within the control of a Train Company or a Rail Service Company leaves you stranded before you have reached your destination and the Train Company whose trains you are entitled to use is unable to get you to that destination by other means, any Train Company which is in a position to help will, if it reasonably can, either arrange to get you to that
destination, or provide overnight accommodation for you.

This is fair enough. Ironically, in my case the other week, the replacement transport laid on (a coach) actually got me home quicker than the original train service was scheduled to have done. I’d find that a little embarassing if I ran a train company. Not that having trains going the wrong way isn’t embarassing enough of course.