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Case studies

Transport Focus deals with over 2600 appeal complaints each year. Read more about some of the times we have been able to help passengers successfully resolve their case.

Click here to see some older case studies.

For her birthday Mrs P used Arriva Trains Wales’ (ATW) telesales helpline to book return tickets from Manchester Piccadilly to Newport for her family. She made it clear on the phone that she wanted to get the cheapest deal for these, and sought out prices for Advance tickets, but was told she could not book these for the price advertised. She later saw a promotion for a reduced price Groupsave booking, and was offered a quote with a 30 per cent discount using the Senior Railcards she and her husband had.

Mrs P could have got a cheaper deal if she had purchased the Advance tickets. The Groupsave tickets were advertised as a reduced fare, so Mrs P expected this to be the cheapest option. Customer service staff advised that she should get the cheaper Advance tickets at her local station, and on ending the call she checked the price on the internet and went to the station half an hour later. When she got there she was told the Advances for that price had sold out.

Mrs P felt that the promotion of the cheaper Advance fares online was misleading and decided to contact ATW again. She was then quoted an even higher price for the tickets due to the number of passengers in the booking. She was then told that to obtain the cheapest possible price she would have to contact telesales and book each ticket individually. Not only was this a long process, but the price of the tickets had risen by £200 in the meantime. Mrs P complained to Transport Focus as she was dissatisfied with the conflicting advice she was given.

Our advisor agreed that the difference in prices was confusing we told Arriva that it was unfair that Mrs P had not been able to take advantage of the cheaper ticket prices despite calling them for help. Arriva explained that for large groups there are a number of ticket options available and the group bookings team could not match the online Advance prices. Whilst it sympathised with the situation Arriva said it would not be offering any money back for the booking. Our advisor continued to press Arriva for a goodwill gesture and Arriva eventually agreed to award Mrs P’s party a round of complimentary drinks. Mrs P was happy to accept this offer, and was grateful that Transport Focus had also clarified the confusion on the booking process.

Mrs H purchased three off-peak weekend tickets ahead of her journey from Glasgow Central to Edinburgh Waverley in August last year with Scotrail as a treat for her niece. Whilst travelling, however, the ticket inspector told her that the tickets were incorrect, and made Mrs H fill out a notice with a £37 fare to pay later. The inspector said that if she did not agree to this the British Transport Police would be called to remove Mrs H and her family members from the train.

Mrs H felt that due to the inspector’s aggressive behaviour she had no alternative but to fill out the notice. When she arrived in Edinburgh, she asked the duty manager for advice and they told her that the tickets were in fact valid to begin with and she should not have been issued a notice. She later contacted Scotrail to double check that the guidance she was given by the duty manager was correct and to request compensation. Scotrail responded that the inspector had been questioned in line with their internal staff procedures, but that it would not offer compensation, despite apologising for her distress.

Mrs H got in touch with Transport Focus, as she was not satisfied with the outcome of her complaint. We contacted Scotrail to ask that a goodwill gesture be offered to Mrs H and that an investigation into the conduct of the inspector be carried out. Scotrail confirmed that the matter had been reviewed and decided to overturn the notice. Mrs H’s tickets were indeed valid for the journey she was making. In spite of this however, ScotRail would still not consider offering a gesture of goodwill as the report logged by the ticket inspector said that that Mrs H had shown a different ticket to the one she purchased for the journey.

Transport Focus met with Scotrail to escalate this case however the answer remained the same and Scotrail was unwilling to offer compensation. We were disappointed that we could not achieve Mrs H’s desired outcome of a goodwill gesture for her experience with Scotrail, however we were happy that Mrs H was not penalised in the end.

Mr T was due to travel with his nephew to London Waterloo on 23 March 2016. He bought two return tickets and two day Travelcards for London at the ticket desk at Salisbury station. As Mr T is registered blind, he was not aware that the tickets had been printed incorrectly and were only valid for 22 March. Mr T and his nephew remained unaware of this issue up to the date of travel. It wasn’t until they were prevented from passing through the ticket barrier at Salisbury station that they found out the tickets were not valid for that day.

As their train was due to depart in six minutes, Mr T and his nephew ended up buying another set of tickets. In order to make their train on time they had to buy tickets where were priced higher than the original tickets.

Mr T’s nephew later submitted a claim for a refund for the additional tickets, as well as the cost of the Day Travelcards which also had the wrong date printed on them. South West Trains replied that it is the responsibility of the passenger to check they have the right tickets to travel and they were not liable to offer a refund to Mr T for this reason. As a goodwill gesture, however, they sent Mr T a cheque for £46 to go towards the cost of the Day Travelcards and the original tickets.

Mr T and his nephew were disappointed with this outcome however, as they still wanted a refund for their more expensive tickets and remained over £50 out of pocket. They decided to get in touch with Transport Focus in the hope of a better outcome. We agreed that more consideration should have been given to their claim and felt that South West Trains were unfair to advise Mr T that he should have checked his ticket when he was unable to do so.

Our advisor contacted South West Trains to explain what had happened and it soon became clear that Mr T’s nephew had not told the train company that his uncle was blind. Once it was made aware of the situation South West Trains acknowledged that the case was dealt with poorly. South West Trains was therefore happy to send Mr T an additional £50 and advised that he could also keep the £46 that was originally sent to him as an apology for what happened.

Both passengers were pleased to learn that the matter had been investigated and agreed that this was a much more encouraging outcome.

Miss B enrolled on a degree course in London last year travelling two days a week from Norwich to London Liverpool Street with Abellio Greater Anglia (AGA). She bought a series of Advance tickets ahead of travel. Although she had checked the timetable ahead of this purchase, there were planned engineering works on this route. This delayed her by two to three hours on average every evening, bringing her into Norwich at 2am as opposed to her arrival time of 12.40am.

As Miss B was arriving home later than intended, she was losing a lot of sleep. Miss B also learnt that the engineering works would be taking place over the next 18 months. Due to the exhaustion and distress caused by this experience she was unable to continue her course and therefore finished her studies early.

Miss B contacted AGA in December 2015 in the hope that it would reimburse her for the 12 tickets she had not used. However AGA would not permit a refund as the engineering works were planned.

Unhappy with this outcome, she contacted Transport Focus outlining that she wanted reimbursement for the tickets as well as her course fees. Transport Focus agreed that AGA should have shown discretion on this occasion. Our advisor spoke with customer relations at AGA to see if a better outcome could be offered. AGA sympathised with Miss B’s situation and was prepared to give the case another look.

On reviewing Miss B’s university course details AGA was willing to offer £144 as a as a goodwill gesture. It also appreciated that Miss B abandoned her train journeys due to the engineering works and agreed to refund a further £72. Miss B was pleased that Transport Focus had helped her reach a better outcome and was grateful that AGA reconsidered her case.

In December 2015 Mr M had booked a batch of advance tickets dated every Monday from December to March 2016 from Edinburgh to Crewe. Damage caused to Lamington Viaduct by Storm Frank meant that the Lockerbie line had to be temporarily closed down for repair. An alternate timetable was put in place by train companies.

For the first leg of his journey Mr M was due to travel from Edinburgh to Preston with Virgin Trains, however due to service cancellations and the introduction of the alternate timetable, he had to alter his travel plans. Initially Mr M had been able to use his ticket to catch alternative services using Virgin Trains East Coast and TransPennine Express but this delayed him by an hour.

However Virgin then announced that it was no longer accepting advance tickets from TransPennine Express on its services and had put the same measures in place for Virgin Trains tickets. This meant that Mr M was no longer allowed to use his Virgin ticket on the TransPennine Express train and had to travel by bus replacement service for part of his journey, delaying him by a further two hours.

Mr M contacted Virgin Trains and was told that the restrictions on tickets would remain in place. Mr M contacted Transport Focus as he felt that the situation was unfair, as his tickets were purchased before the amended timetable. We asked TransPennine Express why it would not accept his Virgin ticket on its trains when it had done so on previous occasions. TransPennine Express explained that Virgin Trains had imposed restrictions on TransPennine customers’ tickets and it had therefore implemented the same measures. On this basis it would not offer compensation to Mr M.

We got in touch with Virgin, which said that due to the extent of the delays and the inconvenience caused, it would be able to reimburse Mr M in Delay Repay compensation. This thankfully coincided with the re-opening of the Lockerbie line and Mr M was able to complete the rest of his booked journeys without disruption.

Mr H arrived at East Boldon station ten minutes before his journey to Newcastle with Tyne and Wear Metro and tried to purchase a ticket from the station ticket vending machine.

Each time he attempted to buy a ticket, the machine cancelled Mr H’s transaction. Aware that he could be fined for travelling without a ticket, Mr H filmed his third attempt to purchase a ticket and then boarded the train he had planned to take in order to make his connection at Newcastle.

When he arrived at Newcastle, Mr H approached staff to purchase a ticket and was issued with a Penalty Fare Notice.

After Mr H’s appeal with Tyne and Wear Metro was declined, he contacted Transport Focus and we approached Tyne and Wear Metro on his behalf.

After reviewing the footage Mr H had taken of the machine not working and our appeal on his behalf, Tyne and Wear Metro agreed to waive the Penalty Fare Notice and refund the £20 already paid.

Miss H and her friend travelled from Gipsy Hill to Winchester. They are both in full-time education and hold 16+ Zip Oyster photocards which allow them to buy child-rate tickets within the London zones.

At the Gipsy Hill ticket office, operated by Southern, they were sold child tickets for the whole journey to Winchester after showing their 16+ Zip Oyster photocards.

When they arrived at Winchester, operated by South West Trains (SWT), they were correctly told that they should have been holding adult tickets and were charged a Penalty Fare.

Miss H and her friend then appealed without success to the Independent Appeals Service, before coming to Transport Focus for help.

We explained to SWT that we thought the Penalty Fares had been issued without considering what the passengers had been told by Southern staff at Gipsy Hill. We asked SWT to reconsider this case, which it did.

As a gesture of goodwill SWT agreed to refund the Penalty Fares and additional charges of £91, even though another train company had incorrectly sold the tickets.

Miss H and her friend were very pleased with this result.

Mrs D’s son was due to travel on 24 October on the 7.30pm train from London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads. He was travelling to a family wedding and was booked into a room at a local hotel. Unfortunately, all trains were cancelled due to a fatality on the line. He had a ticket refund, but Mrs D contacted us as she had had to pay for the hotel room which her son had been unable to use. She wanted a refund of £60.

When the train was cancelled, Mrs D’s son was told that the line was closed and there would be no onward services. No other options were given for him to get to Bristol Temple Meads. Staff couldn’t advise if he’d be able to get a later service so he had no choice but to abandon the journey.

Train companies do not offer compensation as a matter of course under the National Rail Conditions of Carriage for this type of situation, which they term consequential loss, but will consider claims in exceptional circumstances. We felt that he had no way of getting to the hotel to use the room and was advised that the line was closed until further notice. We asked the train company, First Great Western (FGW) to reconsider refunding the hotel costs.

FGW explained that staff wouldn’t have given an indication of when the next service would run as far as Bristol because it would be impossible to know. The disruption was due to a fatality and the line had been closed by the police. Any estimate might have provided false hope. However, FGW appreciated the frustration that Mrs D had paid for an unused hotel room and so it covered the full cost of £60 as a gesture of goodwill.

Mrs D was very pleased with the outcome.

Mrs L purchased an Advance ticket to travel with CrossCountry from Bristol Parkway to Darlington. She attempted to park at the station but was delayed as refurbishment work was being carried out, reducing the number of available parking bays. She was then further delayed when another passenger had problems getting a parking ticket from the car park machine. All of which meant she missed her train and had to purchase another train ticket.

She complained to First Great Western (FGW) which manages Bristol Parkway station and car park. She asked for £82 to cover the cost of the replacement ticket as she felt there was a lack of communication regarding the restricted parking. FGW offered £20 worth of rail travel vouchers, but Mrs L was not satisfied with this and contacted Transport Focus (then Passenger Focus).

We contacted FGW on Mrs L’s behalf and asked it to review its offer. It explained that it had issued warnings both prior to, and during refurbishment work. This included a dedicated webpage with details of an additional car park alongside the station that passengers could use during the works. It also issued media releases and had clear signage at the station. However, it recognised the difficulties of the reduced number of spaces and had asked station staff to allow travel on the next train where an Advance ticket service was missed. Unfortunately, FGW couldn’t make sure that other operators would match this arrangement.

FGW agreed that the £20 rail voucher was not a suitable gesture and offered a cheque for £82 to cover the cost of the additional ticket.

Mrs B bought a season ticket from First Capital Connect (FCC) which included two complimentary tickets. As in previous years she requested these tickets online.

After allowing more time than usual for the complimentary tickets to arrive, Mrs B contacted FCC to complain. Apart from an automatic email response, Mrs B didn’t receive a reply. When FCC’s deadline for replying passed, she contacted Transport Focus.

During the delay in processing Mrs B’s complimentary tickets FCC had changed over to Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which was unwilling to honour the offer.

We felt it was unacceptable that Mrs B’s issue and complaint had been dealt with so poorly. We discussed with GTR the importance of taking ownership of outstanding FCC complaints, which it had previously agreed with us to do.

After our involvement, GTR agreed to send £40 in rail travel vouchers as a gesture of goodwill. We had four similar cases and were able to agree suitable outcomes for each of them.

Ms V, a European Union (EU) national who lives in the UK, booked a ‘print at home’ ticket with Greater Anglia. One of the conditions of ‘print at home’ tickets is that the holder can prove his or her identity by a specified document, such as a passport or driving licence.

Ms V realised that as a form of identification, her national ID card was not valid, even though it allowed her to travel internationally within the EU. Greater Anglia said this was a national issue. The EU ID couldn’t be accepted and this decision was out of their hands. Ms V felt this was very unfair.

Ms V contacted Transport Focus and we found that as EU ID cards can be used to enter the UK from EU member states we could see no reason, nor were we aware of any national policy, which would prevent the use of this card as a form of ID.

We raised this with the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), the rail industry’s trade body. As a result, ATOC has confirmed that EU ID cards will now be accepted as formal identification with ‘print at home’ tickets and has added them to the ‘accepted document’ list.

This is a great result for passengers and demonstrates how passenger complaints can contribute to policy changes in the rail industry.

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