Problems on trains

Take the frustration out of reporting train delays

Train delays can be an extremely frustrating experience. It is not just the time that you lose at the end of your journey (work time or time at home) but also the delay itself, particularly missed connections or a lack of information. Train operators have improved their communications significantly with tools such as Twitter and Facebook in recent years, but there is still room for improvement when services go wrong.

When it comes to complaining about train delays, Train Operators need to know which services were you intending to travel on and what actually happened?

What was your plan?

  • Date
  • Journey
  • Times (including any connections and where they should have been made)

What actually happened?

  • Date
  • Journey
  • Times (again, including connections)
  • Where the delays happened
  • Any reasons given at the time

In addition, it assists operators if you can provide any comments on the experience. Include any areas where information was lacking, where the service could be improved  – or even where it worked well. This helps operators identify areas where they can improve, and also recognise which processes do not need changing. It’s always good to make sure the higher management know about staff who are doing a good job in difficult circumstances, too.

Once you’ve put together this information, you can of course send it to the train operator via FixMyTransport.

I use the notebook tool on my phone to record information that I think will be useful. It allows me to note events as they happen, and add thoughts about what is going on. I can then alter it later into a structure that a representative at the train operator would understand, and be able to act on.

Operators will ask you for your ticket if there is an opportunity for offering you compensation. If you send your tickets to them, you should take a copy first: either photocopy them, scan or take a picture. This means that you still have a record in case they are lost or misplaced.

What about after I have asked for a train refund?

There are two complaints that we see on FixMyTransport after passengers have submitted a refund request.

They are:

I have not received a response

If you have not received a response, it depends on how long has elapsed since you submitted your complaints. Most operators aim to respond to all complaints within twenty working days. If this time has passed you should contact Passenger Focus.

They have lost the tickets I sent them

If they have lost your tickets, you should have taken a copy of them and you should be able to send that copy to them. If you have not taken a copy, my advice would be to look for any further proof such as a receipt or bank statement. You should discuss if there are any options for using this as evidence.

I hope this post makes it easier for you to report delays on your train journeys. If you have any comments, leave a note below. Or you can email them to us, Tweet us or post them on Facebook.

Image by Piblet

Train announcements

Image by Kitty DuKaneThis train is formed of… six carriages. We would like to remind passengers that a no-smoking policy is in force on this train. Please ensure that you have taken all your belongings with you when you exit the train.

Transport Minister Norman Baker has spoken against frequent announcements on train journeys. Well-known transport commentator Christian Wolmar also finds them intolerable. I can sympathise – in my commuting days, I got quite fed up with the robotic voice repeating the same announcements at every single one of the many station stops on my daily route.

Clearly, announcements play an important role for those with impaired vision – but need there be quite so many of them? In the comments on the BBC report of the story, contributors point out that many are redundant – like ‘this is a no-smoking train’, when smoking is banned on all trains these days. Or ‘thank you for choosing to travel with [this train company]’, when there’s only one operator in the district.

FixMyTransport users get exercised about train announcements, too – not to mention on buses, the Tube and on station platforms. Some are for them; many are against. Here’s a small selection.

On Virgin’s Glasgow to London line: “Honest, I won’t sue the train company if it neglects to tell me how to blow my nose.”

On the Bakerloo line: “At 11 pm, do we really need to be told to ‘alight here for London Zoo’?”

On the Jubilee line: “Loud, irritating, patronising, tedious, whinging, stupid, pointless, endlessly repeated announcements”.

We have several complaints about Scotrail’s announcements, including this one: “When this is your life 5 days a week, 49 weeks a year it makes for an unpleasant, stressful and depressing commute”.

And the other side of the issue:

On London Midland’s Birmingham to Lichfield route: “The problem mainly exists at night when it is hard to see station signs due to the bright lighting on the train”.

On Tramlink 3 in Croydon: “I am partially sighted, and this resulted in my boarding the wrong tram yesterday and wasting time going to Blackhorse Road.”

Given that routine announcements may be a necessity for some and an annoyance to others, I’d like to suggest an opt-in method to hear them, like plug-in aeroplane headphones. No need to thank me, train operators of Britain – my real reward will come when we can all travel in peace.

Image: Kitty DuKane (CC)


The Highs and Lows of Train Heating

Waverley by Tom ParnellHere come the cold winter days. And with them, the potential for uncomfortable rail journeys – especially when the heating isn’t working properly.

You might expect complaints about freezing carriages worthy of an ice hotel, but we also suffer from over-enthusiastic heating, making the train more like a tropical hot house. (Temperature isn’t only a problem during the winter – you can tell when summer arrives because we also start getting reports about overheating due to faulty air conditioning).

Getting the heating just right for everyone is always going to be a challenge – you can’t please all of the people all of the time. But if it’s simply not working, well, everyone can agree that it needs to be fixed!  Here is some advice about what to do.

Long distance trains are air conditioned and have on-board staff as well as the driver, so you are best finding a member of staff (preferably the train manager) and reporting the problem directly to them. They will try to fix the problem (e.g. by resetting the power) but it may be impossible to do much without an engineer. If the train is not too busy they will try and move people to an adjacent carriage, and during the summer complimentary drinks may be provided. They will often make announcements to passengers explaining the problem.

Shorter distance trains are also sometimes operated by both a driver and a train conductor, and if this is the case report the problem to the train conductor, although they may have fewer options compared to long distance trains. These trains may be air conditioned, or may just have heating and opening windows.

There are many shorter distance services which are operated only by a driver. One thing to realise is that the driver is very unlikely to know there are any problems with the heating unless they are told, and even then there may be little they can do apart from trying to reset the power if it has tripped. For older trains this may mean walking to the carriage, although newer trains may have circuit breakers in the cab. On some of the latest trains the driver can do nothing; the train automatically sends a message to the depot and an engineer may be sent to check the problem at the end of the train’s journey. It’s always worth reporting the problem to the driver as they will record it in the train’s fault book.

If you are unable to speak to the driver, then most of the train operating operating companies welcome faults being reported through their Twitter accounts; remember to include information such as the origin, destination and time of the train, and also preferably the carriage number (the 5 digit number which will often be written inside at the end of the carriage as well as on the outside).

In all these cases if you are unhappy with how the incident was handled then you can report it via FixMyTransport, and you can also do the same for well handled issues as public record of the problem and how it was handled. This way you can also add further updates if there is a recurring problem and other FixMyTransport may add their own experiences.

Image credit: Tom Parnell (CC)