If your journey by train has been disrupted, you’ve suffered an accident you don’t think was your fault, your train was cancelled or there was a problem with the train or line, you can make a formal complaint to the rail provider or Network Rail, depending on who was potentially at fault.
By making a complaint about a train service, you are potentially ensuring the safety of future passengers on that service, or simply improving that service. Even if there is no compensation involved, a complaint will be taken seriously and the fault (hopefully) remedied.
Train lines are dangerous places, so you should complain about anything that affected your safety at any time, or anything you think could have been done. It could save lives.
Insurance companies will want a paper trail if you are claiming injuries, so the first port of call is the rail provider you were using when you had your accident. The insurance company will most likely contact them to verify the details of the incident and your claim should go smoothly.
In the case of a criminal complaint, you should also be complaining to the police. A complaint registered with the rail provider is important in such matters, so be sure to do so.
Rail companies are reluctant (like most companies) to make changes to their service unless enough people complain. It is this pressure, especially in the modern world of social media, that facilitates rapid change, so add your voice and make a difference.
We are forced to use the services they provide, we don’t really get an option as to which train we can get on, so we need to hold these companies to account as much as possible. This is part of civic responsibility, they might be privatised but they are still providing public services.
Which Company Should I Complain To?
The company you should make your complaint to is the one that you were using at the time. Even if it was a problem with the rail infrastructure, and therefore the remit of Network Rail, generally you should be contacting the provider of the train first.
If you are unsure as to which company you were using, it will say on your ticket and receipt. If you have neither of these, look on the National Rail website for all the providers of rail services in the England. Failing that, you can look up the route and time you used, that should give you which service you were using.
Is My Complaint Valid?
You can understand whether your complaint is valid by reading both the National Rail Conditions of Carriage and the Passenger’s Charter from the rail provider you were using. The National Rail document lists all your rights on every train and the Passenger’s Charter is the document that lists your rights above and beyond those guaranteed in law.
These two documents contain everything you need to know about whether your complaint will work or not.
Should you have been in breach of any of the conditions laid down in the documents, it is unlikely your complaint will be upheld unless there is a serious breach by the rail provider. They will try to argue that because you weren’t complying with the contract that is implicit in your train ticket (see the Passenger’s Charter), any injury or loss you have suffered is your fault. This is where it gets complicated and best left to a solicitor to explain, but be aware of the contract you entered into upon purchasing your ticket.
If you weren’t in any way at fault, or think you weren’t, it’s very likely you have a valid complaint, so take it forward.
Making the Complaint
When you contact the rail provider customer service, you should give them as much detail as you possibly can. It is helpful to have written down all the details of the reason for your complaint as quickly as possible after the incident, both to help you remember correctly and as a way of ensuring you make a solid complaint.
Once you’ve contacted them, make sure you’ve made note of any reference numbers, names or addresses they give you, these will help you have a smooth complaint process and potentially speed the process up a great deal.
Any documents you send to the rail company should be copies, not originals. They are unlikely to return many documents, or will charge you a lot to do so. Make several copies of everything, including emails and letters they send you, just to be on the safe side.
The rail company is likely to resist having to deal with your complaint as much as possible. This isn’t the fault of the staff you’re in communication, it’s that they are commercial entities and compensation or remuneration costs money, affecting profitability and share prices. So keep it in mind that they are going to push back.
Don’t worry, you’re in the right and you have every right to complain. By making a complaint, you aren’t affecting any of your rights, so they cannot discriminate against you in anyway because of it.
There are established standards for complaints with large companies, but make sure you double check everything, make notes of anything you can and keep copies of everything. A lost document can mean the end of your complaint.
National Rail contact page – http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/contact/feedback/48304.aspx
National Rail Conditions of Carriage (PDF file) – http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/static/documents/content/NRCOC.pdf