Sunday 19th September 2021
I thought I should provide a few updates after my post a month ago about unsatisfactory experiences at the hands of various rail companies and their hard to reach customer service departments, or often, their sub-contracted outsourced companies.
I explained how South Western Railway had twice declined my delay repay claim for a cancelled journey to Christchurch I was unable to travel on and their phone number was not able to receive any calls for more than a week.
I’m pleased to report the phone line was restored soon after my blog back, but I didn’t need to use it as I received an email from Jack, SWR’s “Video Contact Centre Team Leader” explaining the reason my second attempt at a Delay Repay for the cancelled journey had been rejected as a ‘duplicate claim’ was because I needed to appeal the claim rather than submit the claim again and he helpfully included a step by step guide how to appeal against the decision to refuse my delay repay claim which I managed to do as per the correct procedure.
The only trouble was the appeal got rejected because “we have checked the journey you have claimed for and we appear to be missing multiple legs of your full intended journey. Therefore, your claim has been rejected on this occasion.”
I’d only claimed for the cancelled Southampton to Christchurch journey but my ticket was for Hassocks (my home station) and Bournemouth (my intended return point). So I emailed Jack back to ask what more information they were after in addition to confirming the journey I caught with Southern from Hassocks via Hove to Southampton and got a helpful reply the next day from Rupert, SWR’s “Customer Service Centre Advisor” giving me the full background…
“I’m sorry your claim was rejected, the reason behind this is because the Southern Journey from Brighton was delayed in its arrival to Southampton and arrived at 09:21 leaving you only 3 minutes to catch the 09:24 train had it run. So if we are to compensate based on the old timetable rather than the last minute amended timetable then we need to take this into consideration and normally Southern would be liable to compensate you, however due to the nature of the compensation being based on a different timetable, it is likely Southern would reject the claim. Hence to compensate you I have raised a cheque for £3.88 to cover the 40 minute delay, please allow up to 20 working days for this cheque to arrive.”
So, in a nutshell, even though SWR cancelled their journey completely, their Delay Reapay system rejected my claim because the Southern train I arrived into Southampton on was two minutes late – arriving at 09:21 instead of the scheduled 09:19 meaning I only had 3 minutes to ‘not’ catch the cancelled SWR departure at 09:24 instead of a minimum official allowed 5 minutes (I’ve actually done it in 2 minutes in the past).
Interesting logic, and I’m not sure Southern would have fallen over themselves to compensate me for a two minute late arrival!
In the event it all ended happily as I received SWR’s cheque for the delay repay claim and have banked the £3.88, even though I was happy to accept Rail Vouchers.
Meanwhile I also heard back from GWR, receiving a reply the day my blogpost went live from Simon, GWR’s “Customer Relations Manager” on 18th August:
“Thank you for your webform received on 07 August 2021, which has been escalated to me for review. I am sorry for the delay in coming back to you. I was concerned to note your commentary regarding your rejected delay claim and have reviewed this for you. I can confirm our 09:29 service from Gatwick Airport on 6 August was cancelled because of staff shortages. Our systems were then updated to reflect this at 01:17. However, our rostering team continued to work to cover these shortfalls and were able to crew this service so it was later reinstated but I regret our information systems, that feed National Rail’s, weren’t updated to reflect this. Clearly unacceptable, and I have raised this with our control team so it can be reviewed with a view to prevent a reoccurrence of this nature. I have also asked for our Delay Repay team to overturn your rejected claim.”
So that was an encouraging and positive outcome. I received my compensation in the form of a Rail Travel Voucher as requested, and hopefully similar circumstances will not recur.
The third issue was with Southern at my home station Hassocks where I brought their attention to a simple matter that just needed their attention so it could be resolved. After my blogpost went live I received an email from Sarah, Southern’s Customer Service Advisor which was a bit of a standard ‘cut and paste’ job …
“I do apologise for the inconvenience you experienced at Hassocks station. Please be assured that your comments have been logged as feedback to be reviewed by the relevant department. Customer feedback is vitally important to us, and is used to help improve the service we provide to passengers in future.”
… and I also received a courtesy phone call from Sam in Southern’s Customer Service ‘department’ (outsourced company) asking me if everything was now resolved, which I confirmed it was, as I had been advised by the staff at Hassocks that action had been taken.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the moral of these experiences is …. if you have a complaint about a short coming or a suggestion to pass on, the best thing to do is to start writing blogposts and publish them online ….. but I’m sure it’s just a coincidence these matters were all resolved just after my blogpost went live.
Another upside is blog reader Brian Davies kindly put in the comments section a listing of the email addresses for every train operating company so you can avoid those annoying online forms. I’ve now added this to the content menu at the top of the home page on this website so it’s easily available, and many thanks to Brian for this. I’m hoping to gradually add bus company email addresses too, to avoid those infernal forms. Let me know if you have any to add.
Finally while those three matters were resolved I’ve subsequently opened three more case files following recent unsatisfactory travel experiences.
Almost two weeks after a promised refund from Loganair for the aborted return flights to Bara on Monday 6th September we’re still waiting. Come on LoganAir this is not good enough. And I haven’t received a reply to my request they refund the easyJet fares from Gatwick to Glasgow as a ‘consequential’ loss particularly as we didn’t take up their offer of an overnight hotel stay in Glasgow that Monday which would have cost Loganair even more than reimbursing the cheap easyJet fares. Is a two week delay to pay a refund after a cancelled flight acceptable? I do not think it is. Loganair, I’m not impressed with you.
Secondly, my Twitter followers will know I had a problem on Tuesday morning when the driver of my Arriva route 5C in Bangor incorrectly sold me a £3.80 Arriva Day ticket for ‘North West and Wales’ instead of the £3.70 ‘1bws’ ticket (available on all bus companies) I had asked for and sadly I didn’t spot it in time for the driver be able to annul the ticket.
Arriva’s Twitter team eventually linked me to their online form to request a refund as well as another of the team giving me their email address the next day.
I had a go at using the form just for the hell of it and it really is a minefield. You have to specify what category of complaint you’re making from a limited range of options, none of which described my issue, but I plumped for ‘fares’ and then got flummoxed by the drop down menu to confirm the mandatory field of what route number was involved because the routes are listed in computer code order with every conceivable route Arriva operates nationwide so you can imagine finding 5C is not straight forward st all (it comes after routes 59, 592, 593, 5A, 5A Sapphire, snd 5B)
After a while I completed all the compulsory fields marked with an asterisk, attached images of the £3.80 ticket and the £3.70 ticket I bought on the Gwynfor bus and hit ‘submit’ receiving an immediate acknowledgment from ‘Arriva Group’ and a ‘you’ll hear from us within 10 days’ type commitment.
On Friday I received an email asking me to confirm parts of my credit card number for identification purposes so I assume a refund is in hand, but nothing has appeared in my account yet.
As a postscript to this I would add I did point out the error to the driver as I got off the bus in Caernarfon and he apologised for the mistake and immediately issued a correct £3.70 ticket to hand to me but when I queried that he would now be £3.70 out of pocket which he confirmed was the case, I insisted he take it back and annul it so he wouldn’t lose out as I fully understood mistakes can easily happen especially when there’s a multitude of different day tickets. I thought that was very good of him.
The third issue was on Friday at Tottenham Hale station when returning from another day of our LCBS Anniversary Tour (blog to follow) and the inbound ticket barrier machine gobbled up my ticket without spewing it out to open the barrier but when LU team member Mick came over snd opened up the machine all he found inside was another jammed ticket.
It was a mystery where my ticket had vanished to but my travel companions and I concluded it must have got stick to that other jammed ticket and Mick didn’t realise he was holding two together, Paul Daniels style.
I’ve filled in TfL’s online complaint form and explained it all with copies of receipts for the ticket I bought from Bishops Stortford to Hassocks (that disappeared) and the extra ticket to Hassocks I then had to buy to get home. I’ll be interested to see how they respond,
I’ll let you know when I hear from LoganAir, Arriva and TfL. Let’s see who resolves the issues most efficiently and effectively.