Passenger Stranded

The Issue

The consumer contacted us after she had experienced delays on her journey from a London terminal to her destination, approximately 2 hours train journey away. The train had been cancelled part way through the journey due to disruption on the East Coast Mainline and there were no staff available to help so she travelled by replacement bus service to the next station.

There, at approximately 8pm, she spoke to staff outside the station and was informed that “no trains were going North” that evening. She took a taxi from the station to her house, her lift from the destination station no longer being available because of the lateness of the hour.

The Claim

The consumer was seeking a refund of the taxi fare which had cost her £90.

The Response

The Rail Service Provider responded by acknowledging that the consumer was incorrectly informed by staff from another train operator since there was an alternative service available to her which would take her further up the line, although not all the way to her original destination. The Rail Service Provider confirmed that the consumer had also been provided with a full refund on her ticket under the Delay Repay promise and they had apologised to her for the delays experienced.

Our Evaluation

The Rail Ombudsman acknowledged the response made, however, also took account that the train to which the Rail Service Provider referred was not due to leave until approximately 10.30pm. We understood that the consumer felt vulnerable travelling alone, had child care issues to attend to at home and had already experienced a significant delay. She had relied on information provided to her by station staff before deciding to take a taxi, incurring a cost of £90.

We acknowledged the complexity of the situation where the delay occurred due to an issue on the network, however we looked at the Rail Service Provider’s Passenger Charter which directed consumers to rely on information from station staff, without differentiating whether consumers could rely on information provided by any train operator. We therefore concluded that the consumer had not acted unreasonably in placing reliance on this information, even though it was later found to be incorrect. On this basis, we invited the Rail Service Provider to make an offer in mediation.

The Outcome

They offered £75 towards the taxi fare which we considered reasonable since the taxi took the consumer all the way home (beyond the scheduled station stop). The consumer accepted this in resolution.

Recommendation: The Ombudsman recommended that the Rail Service Provider made an amendment to its FAQs to make it clearer to consumers that in times of disruption, they should always check National Rail Enquiries or find one of their own members of staff to get the best, most up to date information. The Rail Service Provider has since made this amendment.

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