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1999-02-17 ORR-001
Office of the Rail Regulator

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Regulator says complaints must lead to action as they rise by a quarter


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Office of the Rail Regulator
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Office of the Rail Regulator

Regulator says complaints must lead to action as they rise by a quarter
_______________________________________________________________


date
17 February 1999
source Office of the Rail Regulator
type Press release

note ORR/99/03


Passenger complaints reported by the 25 train operating companies are rising according to the latest figures just released by the Rail Regulator's Office. A total of 540,000 complaints were registered by the companies in the period April 1 to October 17 1998 - nearly a 25% increase on the same period the previous year, when 435,000 complaints were logged.

Commenting on the second edition of the Rail Complaints Bulletin, published today, Chris Bolt, the Rail Regulator, said that complaints were an important element in the search for an improving railway system. He welcomed efforts made by train operators to make it easy for passengers to register comments on the service they have received but warned them that they must ensure that passengers making complaints receive prompt, high quality responses and that operators must be prepared to act on the positive feedback they got from complaints.

"Making it easy for passengers to make complaints may well encourage them to register their comments on operators' services. This is not something to be afraid of, and those operators who have taken actions to improve their accessibility are to be applauded." said Mr Bolt.

The increase in complaints comes against a background of disappointing train service performance as reported by the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising (OPRAF) in its quarterly performance bulletins, with as many train operators providing a worsening level of performance as providing an unchanging or improving level of performance.

Service performance has an obvious correlation with complaint levels, but the second edition of the Rail Complaints Bulletin explains that the increase is also due in part to developments in providing more accessible telephone services and better recording systems.

Telephone contacts were up 56% while written contacts were up 7%. The increase in complaints may, therefore, be as much a result of improved access as an increase in the level of customer dissatisfaction.

However, he also warned train operators that a small number had provided an unacceptable level of performance in terms of replying to complaints in the period. All operators "must ensure that the commitments made to passengers in terms of speed and quality of responses to complaints, are met over the next six months. Passengers will expect to see improved performance when the next report is published in the summer," he said.

Among the report's other findings:

o the level of complaints received by train operators is affected by the type of business they operate as well as by level of service; inter-city operators attract the greater number of complaints while commuter services attract the least number;
o while there has been some improvement, train operators generally still need to do more to make it easier for passengers to contact them by telephone;
o all but two train operators receive more than one third of their written complaints on pre-printed comment forms - a welcome sign of accessible complaint systems;
o the speed of response performance is very patchy among the 25 train operators; nine failed to answer more than 90% of cases within 20 working days;
o over half of all complaints were related to train service performance. Train quality (10%) and fares and retailing (10%) were the other two highest categories of complaint.

The findings in the Rail Complaints Bulletin are based on unaudited data provided to the Regulator by the train operators themselves, based on customer contacts (ie, each contact counted as one complaint) in line with Office of Fair Trading and other regulators. The Regulator is currently developing an independent auditing regime to identify and remove any discrepancies from future data.

Rail Complaints available from : ORR Library, 1 Waterhouse Square, 138-142 Holborn, London EC1N 2TQ. Telephone 0171 282 2001; fax 0171 282 2045; e-mail orr@dial.pipex.com.

The document can also be found on the ORR website : http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk

PRESS ENQUIRIES : ORR Press Office 0171 282 2002/2007; (Out of office hours contact the duty press office by paging 0941 148521).


Railhub Archive ::: 1999-02-17 ORR-001





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