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Railhub Archive
1997-11-12 ORR-001
Office of the Rail Regulator


Regulator moves towards enforceable standards for accurate retailing by train operators

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Office of the Rail Regulator

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Office of the Rail Regulator

Regulator moves towards enforceable standards for accurate retailing by train operators

related documents

Accurate and impartial retailing: Report on the first national survey (ORR, 1997)

1997-10-23 Rail Regulator announces further fines for train operators as calls go unanswered (Office of the Rail Regulator)

1997-09-16 Train operators fined for leaving too many telephone enquiries unanswered (Office of the Rail Regulator)

1997-08-15 Rail Regulator confirms enforcement action against National Rail Enquiry Service (Office of the Rail Regulator)


12 November 1997
source Office of the Rail Regulator
type Press release

note ORR/97/32

The Rail Regulator, John Swift QC, today announced that he would be seeking to introduce enforceable standards for accurate ticket retailing and information by train operators, following the news that on average one in ten enquirers are misinformed about the best ticket for their needs - with success rates ranging from 96% for the simplest transactions to 66% for advance travel enquiries relating to Sunday travel.

Publishing the results of the biggest ever survey of station ticket offices and telephone enquiry bureaux, Mr Swift said, "We now have a lot of information which has never previously been available, both about overall industry performance and about the type of transactions which cause the most problems. We have found, for instance, that while one in ten passengers are misinformed overall, this rises to two in ten where advance purchase transactions are concerned, and performance is even worse for passengers making enquiries about Sunday travel. What is more, two in ten disabled passengers are not given the correct information to meet their special needs.

"This is simply not good enough," he continued. "As I have said recently with regard to the targets set for the number of calls to be answered by the National Rail Enquiry Service (NRES), getting the calls answered is only the beginning. I now wish to see enforceable standards for the quality of information given, both by NRES and by station retail staff, included in the Ticketing and Settlement Agreement, to which all operators are bound by their licences.

"The results of this survey, which did not use trick questions but concentrated on the genuine needs of passengers who use the railways, will now be used to set standards of performance which operators will have to meet if they are to avoid enforcement action. Further surveys will be carried out and one of the priorities for the next survey, which will take place as early as possible next year, will be to allow league tables on the performance of individual operators to be produced, and to show how each operator's performance measures up against the industry average."

The survey was carried out by teams of 'mystery shoppers' in January and March this year. The results are based on 3,705 enquiries at 933 staffed stations, as well as 894 enquiries across the telephone enquiry bureaux. Operators were tested on the answers given to nine different scenarios. Not surprisingly the highest success rate was for straightforward immediate travel transactions with no alternative route or fare options, where the industry achieved 96% accuracy. The lowest was for advance purchase transactions involving travel on Sundays with APEX or other quota restricted options available - here the accuracy rate was only 66%. Overall the industry achieved 90% accuracy, with no evidence of any systematic bias against rival train operators - accuracy rather than impartiality appeared to be the issue, with passengers as likely to be undercharged as overcharged.

Mr Swift concluded, "Overall performance may be better than some limited surveys have suggested, but this is no cause for complacency. I want to see reports from each operator and from ATOC by the end of January 1998 on what action they are taking to improve staff training and develop new retailing systems."

"Accurate and Impartial Retailing: Report of the first national survey" is available from Sue MacSwan, ORR Library, 1 Waterhouse Square, 138-142 Holborn, London EC1N 2ST (Tel: 0171 282 2001; Fax: 0171 282 2045; or e-mail

Railhub Archive ::: 1997-11-12 ORR-001


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