The move underlines train companies’ commitment to continuing to improve services for customers.
Following discussions led by Rail Minister Paul Maynard, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) - which brings train companies together to improve the railway - is working closely with the Department for Transport, the Office of Rail and Road, Transport Focus and London TravelWatch to develop proposals for an independent body backed by the power to resolve disputes.
Free to use, the new service - expected to start early next year - will be provided by experts in consumer rights and give customers even greater confidence that they will get a fair hearing.
The new scheme will build on the successful advocacy work carried out by Transport Focus and London TravelWatch. Whilst they can investigate disputed complaints on behalf of customers they cannot make train companies take action if failings are identified. The new ombudsman will have the power to do this as its decisions will be binding on train companies.
Rail Minister Paul Maynard said:
“After my discussions with rail industry leaders I am delighted to see they are taking this vital step, which will help ensure that passengers get a fair deal. I am committed to putting passengers at the heart of everything we do and I want them to have a stronger voice. The way to achieve this is to set up an independent and binding process to resolve complaints.”
Jacqueline Starr, RDG Managing Director of Customer Experience, said:
“Working together train companies are drawing up and fully supporting plans for an independent ombudsman to make journeys better now and for the long term. A fair, friendly, strong and independent appeals service will help rail companies learn lessons as they continue to invest to better connect the country."
Transport Focus and London TravelWatch concluded 4,133 appeals from rail passengers in 2016-17, according to the official rail regulator.
The RDG will announce the details of the scheme later this year following a tender process.
About Rail Delivery Group
The purpose of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) is to enable passenger and freight operators and Network Rail to succeed by delivering better services for their customers. This ultimately benefits taxpayers and the economy.