[Published by Passenger Focus, 1st March 2014]
Passenger Focus is concerned about the unfair treatment meted out by train companies on passengers who have made an innocent mistake when travelling. We have taken this up with the transport minister as making sure that passengers are treated fairly is the most important part of our work.
Each year we handle thousands of appeals by passengers who are unhappy with the way their train company has handled their complaint. We took a close look at these complaints and found that passengers using the rail network face very inconsistent treatment when travelling without a ‘valid’ ticket. Passengers who get it wrong can find themselves facing a hefty bill, or in some of the worst cases, criminal prosecution.
In our letter to the transport minister we have included a number of examples of poor behaviour by train companies, who seem to have far more autonomy and legal power than most other commercial industries. This includes threatening passengers with prosecution for errors such as forgetting their railcard, losing one of their tickets but having other proof of purchase, or being unable to pick up booked tickets.
Sometimes the threat of criminal prosecution seems to be used as a form of debt collection by train companies.
We have argued that this approach to justice must be administered according to clear guidelines, be accountable, give passengers a fair hearing and not assume everyone is guilty.
We’ll report back on this work in future editions of Passenger Voice.
The case study featured in this month’s edition is a good example of what some passengers have to face.
Link to Passenger Focus website is http://email.passengerfocus.org.uk/passengerfocuslz/lz.aspx?p1=058096S177209&CC=&p=2&cID=0&cValue=1
Passenger Focus is the independent consumer organisation representing the interests of rail users nationally and bus, coach and tram users across England outside London.