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New trains ombudsman ‘has power to bring change’

RAIL passengers unhappy with how their complaints have been handled will be able to use a new ombudsman service from today.

The ‘dispute resolution ombudsman’ will act as an independent body to hold train companies to account.

The post has been created following growing dissatisfaction with services over recent years.

Anthony Smith of passenger watchdog Transport Focus welcomed the ombudsman’s power to impose binding decisions. He said it ‘will drive improvements to the way most train operators handle passenger complaints’.

Companies will have to take action if failings are identified.

Rail minister Andrew Jones described the launch of the service as a ‘significant step forward for passengers’ rights’ and urged companies to ‘take this opportunity to improve their complaints process’.

Passengers can go to the ombudsman if they are unhappy with the final response from a rail company or if their complaint has not been resolved within 40 working days. About 6,000 complaints a year will be referred to the service, which is being funded by train operators.

Office of Rail and Road figures show only 28 per cent of people who made a complaint to a train company in 2017/18 were satisfied with the outcome. The most common areas of complaints include punctuality/reliability, difficulties buying a ticket and not being able to find a seat.