New rail franchises will require train operators to make it easier for passengers to claim compensation, including one-click systems on smartphones and smartcards.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling announced the move at the Conservative Party conference on Monday (1 October), although he gave little detail.
The Department for Transport said that ‘simple and speedy one-click automated claims systems, available via smartphones and smartcard registration', would form part of stronger obligations for future train operators under franchises.
The announcement reflects the fact that it is difficult for the DfT to impose obligations on train firms retrospectively. However, officials said that it is ‘working with all train operators to better promote awareness of schemes such as Delay Repay and encourage them to bring in automated processes for informing passengers of their rights to claim’.
Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: ‘After recent disruption, one-click automated compensation for delays on the railway cannot arrive too soon, so we look forward to seeing this in the new franchises for Southeastern, East Midland and the West Coast Partnership.'
The DfT also published statistics showing that the total amount of compensation paid to passengers has risen 80% in the past two years, ‘as the government has increased the requirements of train operators to publicise passengers’ rights’.
Mr Smith said: ‘Our research, published today by the Department for Transport, does show that while it’s now easier to claim far too many passengers still don’t request the compensation they are eligible to receive. Train operators still have a lot to do before the majority of eligible passengers get the compensation they deserve under current arrangements.’
Last week Transport Network reported that the regulator Office of Rail and Road is to look at complaints from passengers that rail companies had used longer scheduled journey times under May’s timetable changes to avoid compensation.