South Western Railway ‘dragging heels’ in compensating customers, says transport watchdog

South Western Railway (SWR) was named one of the worst performers in compensating customers for delays, a report found yesterday.

A report by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) found that SWR closed an average 70.3% of cases within the recommended 20 working day period, with some periods dropping to as low as 45.2%.

This is compared to the national average of 92% of claims being closed within 20 working days.

According to the report, SWR received 295,939 compensation claims between April and mid-October of last year, with approximately 31% of these being made from 24 June and 21 July when 92,446 compensation claims were submitted to the railway operator.

SWR said that the delay in compensating customers was due to a backlog of claims which led to processing delays that the company was ‘very sorry for’.

The company plans on introducing a new automated delay repay system to streamline the compensation claim process.

For many this does not come as a surprise with industrial action, major engineering works at its main hub London Waterloo and overcrowding leading to low customer satisfaction and delays across the service.

Watchdog Transport Focus says that train companies need to do more to improve customer experiences, and an overhaul of the current complaints procedures was needed.

“Passengers tell us that they want punctual and reliable journeys. When things don’t go to plan for passengers, prompt responses, an apology and compensation can take away some of the sting,” chief executive of the watchdog, Anthony Smith, said.

“While the majority of operators are promptly dealing with claims it is disappointing to see some dragging their heels. Operators now need to take action to ensure more compensation claims are dealt with within the required 20 working days to help passengers feel confident in their service.

“The rail industry should introduce more automated compensation for delays and cancellations so that passengers get the money they are entitled to,” Smith added.

The ORR said they will be meeting with railway companies in the coming months to review current timescales for compensation claims.

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