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Railhub Archive
1997-01-22 ORR-001
Office of the Rail Regulator


Rail Regulator tells train operators they must do better on information and retailing

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Office of the Rail Regulator

Rail Regulator tells train operators they must do better on information and retailing

22 January 1997
source Office of the Rail Regulator
type Press release

note ORR/97/04

The Rail Regulator, John Swift QC, today continued his campaign to secure improvements in the information and retailing services provided by train operators by setting out a comprehensive programme of action.

Introducing his policy statement, Mr Swift said, "Accurate and impartial retailing is essential if passengers are to be able to use the railway with confidence. It is clear that operators can and must do much better in this respect. That is why I have already taken action on two fronts. First, I launched the public consultation which has enabled me to set out a wide ranging programme of action for improvement today. Second, I began the largest ever network-wide survey to establish, via 'mystery shoppers', current standards of service and pinpoint where specific improvement action is needed.

"My first conclusion from the consultation was to reject the suggestion that retailing services should be taken away from train operators and put in the hands of independent sales organisations. This would cut train operators off from their customers and cut retail staff off from professional knowledge about the railway. That would not be in the best interests of either the passengers or the industry. My aim is to work with the industry to create a better railway and I am persuaded by the operators' willingness to work with me to improve their ticket retailing services. Indeed, their plans to expand their businesses depend on their product being sold better, and a third of their revenue comes from sales made by other companies.

"The action I am setting out today is therefore intended to assist retailers by clarifying the retailing requirements under their licences, while making it clear to them that it is their responsibility to improve the service they offer. I am also leaving them in no doubt that if I see evidence of serious or persistent infringement of the licence provisions, I will be ready to order immediate remedial action."

Other key points from the Regulator's policy statement include:

The objective of impartial retailing is defined as: "Providing accurate information and advice on journey and ticket options - irrespective of which company provides the train service - to allow passengers to make an informed choice; and providing the means to purchase the product which best meets their needs."
The Regulator does not wish to prevent retailers from making straightforward sales with the minimum of fuss. However, where a passenger's needs warrant it, the questions asked by retailing staff should be widened to include fare and journey options, on-board facilities, service frequency, and preferred origin and destination stations.
Except where it is clear that passengers have already made a choice of service or are travelling immediately, retailers must provide information about competing services, including from or to another station in the same town.
It is the responsibility of operators to invest in more support and training for their retail staff, and in modern information systems; and to examine their fares to ensure they offer choice without creating confusion.
The Regulator concluded, "Where operators make an isolated mistake I will expect them to deal with any complaint promptly, sensitively and positively. The first results from the mystery shopper surveys will be available to me in March and will allow me to judge the extent of the problems. I will investigate any problems which come to light - whether as a result of these surveys, in the meantime, or subsequently - to establish whether they should be treated as breaches of the retailing obligation in the operator's licence."

The Regulator has today written to Managing Directors of all the train operating companies, emphasising the importance he attaches to the provision of accurate and impartial retailing information. A copy of his letter is attached.

"Accurate and Impartial Retailing: Meeting the Needs of Passengers. A Policy Statement" is available, free of charge, from Sue MacSwan, ORR Library, 1 Waterhouse Square, 138-142 Holborn, London EC1N 2ST. (Tel: 0171 282 2001; Fax: 0171 282 2045; E-mail:

"Accurate and Impartial Retailing: Meeting the Needs of Passengers. A Consultation Document", was published in August 1996 and is also available from Sue MacSwan.

Audio tape version available Audio tape versions of both documents are also available.

Railhub Archive ::: 1997-01-22 ORR-001


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