Thursday, 7 June 2018

Northern Rail Being Devious When it Comes to Compensation

Northern Rail's policy on compensation for delays is quite clear

Delay of between 30 and 59 minutes:

Compensation of one single ticket to anywhere on the Northern network. Or 50% of the cost of your single ticket or relevant portion of your return ticket.

So when I was delayed coming home from Carnforth on 15 March I was entitled to compensation of either 55p or a free ticket to the likes of Nottingham, Newcastle, Lincoln or just about anwhere in the north.  It was a no brainer really so my claim for a free ticket was submitted the same day.
In the meantime I have had to remind Northern Rail that I haven't had a reply and have had two contacts with rail watchdog Passenger Focus, who escalated my claim to a "Senior Advisor"!
So how did Northern Rail react?   By sending me this email:
Dear James  Davies,

Thank you for your correspondence in respect to the Northern service on 15
March 2018 with our reference DR-2959-9596.

I am sorry to learn that your journey between Carnforth and Lancaster was
disrupted, and that you were caused a delay as a result. Please be assured
that we are committed to operating a punctual train service on all of our
routes, continually reviewing and monitoring the cause of all delays to our
trains, to ensure that appropriate measures are put in place to reduce their
recurrence wherever this is possible.

Please accept my apologies for the delay you experienced; I have authorised acheque to the value of £0.55. (my emphasis) This will be sent to you by post and should be
received in the next 10 working days, which I hope will be accepted with my
apologies for the inconvenience caused.

Your planned route (scheduled times):
Departing 1617 from Carnforth to Lancaster arriving 1628.

Route we think you took (actual times):
Departed 1703 from Carnforth to Lancaster arrived 1711.

Delay repay does not in any way limit or exclude your other legal rights to
compensation as a consumer where we are at fault, under the Consumer Rights
Act 2015 or otherwise.

Should you have any further queries or concerns then please do not hesitate
to contact us again at

Kind regards,

If they think I'm going to be satisfied with 55p when I am entitled to a free train ride they've got another think coming!

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

A Rare Visitor. . .and Another Compensation Update

Although the presence of a canal was a factor in choosing to relocate to Lancaster when I finished work I realised that the sheer inconvenience of reaching it from the rest of the network would severely limit the number of visiting boaters from amongst those I met whilst running Starcross. So I was pleased to discover, through reading their blog, that Barry and Sandra on Areandare (aka "The Home Brew Boat") would be coming this way in June. 

In the event they were forced into a change of plan and their time in Lancaster co-incided with a holiday Sandra had arranged, so it was just Barry that we met up with over the last few days. He arrived in town on Thursday and, after helping him find a place to tie-up, I also helped him find a few of Lancaster's better real ale pubs, which he quite seemed to like!

Then yesterday, him having moved on to Carnforth, Hil and I, along with Hil's 94-year old mum, Jean, joined him for a trip up to the very top of the Lancaster Canal at Tewitfield and back.  Helped by the wonderful sunny weather we have - most unusually - been enjoying in the north west this Spring (I can't actually remember when it last rained!) we all enjoyed the cruise. It was a surprise for Jean as we only invited her at the last moment and she really didn't know what to expect, but she sat happily in the front well all the way there and - after a picnic lunch - back.
Barry with Hil and Jean back at Carnforth
Barry tells me he's not usually someone who insists on travelling every inch of a particular waterway (they are "buffer-touchers" in railway-speak, but I'm not sure what the waterway term is). However as Tewitfield is the northernmost point on the connected UK system he made an exception and we proceeded past the winding hole for the last 30 or 40 metres to the very end, before he gave me back the tiller for the return run to Carnforth.
"Touching the buffers" at the very top of the connected system at Tewitfield

It was, as we say oop north  "a reet gradely day out" and I'm keeping my eye out for any other bloggers heading this way.

Compensation Update:

Still nothing from Northern Rail on my claim for a free ticket (see last two posts) but I have heard from industry watchdog "Transport Focus":

Dear Mr Davies
Thank you for your recent contact with Transport Focus.
Unfortunately, despite our efforts, we have not received a conclusive response from Northern (Arriva) to your query. As such, your case has now been passed to a Senior Passenger Team Adviser to escalate your complaint within Northern (Arriva).
Once we have received further information from Northern (Arriva), we will contact you again.

Kind regards

Theresa Astley

Passenger Team Assistant
Transport Focus
The independent transport user watchdog

I suppose it's progress of a sort. 

Monday, 28 May 2018

Claiming Compensation Update

The Lesser-Spotted Northern Train

The story so far:
On March 15th I was delayed coming home from Carnforth by a cancelled train. The delay to my journey was such that I became entitled to compensation of "50% of the price of the relevant portion of your ticket" or a free ticket to anywhere served by Northern Railway.  Because it was such a short journey the most I could expect financially was just 55p so on the same day I submitted an online claim for the free ticket.

On April 17th, having heard nothing from Northern I sent a reminder email.

After a further two weeks without a response I contacted Transport Focus and asked them to help, which they promised to do.

Yesterday I heard from Northern. In an email addressed both to "Dear Sir/Madam" and "Dear James Davies" they said:
Thank you for your correspondence in respect to the Northern service on 15
March 2018 with our reference DR-2959-9596. We are very sorry for any
inconvenience and will process your claim as quickly as possible. We will
notify you again once your claim has been reviewed.

Delay repay does not in any way limit or exclude your other legal rights to
compensation as a consumer where we are at fault, under the Consumer Rights
Act 2015 or otherwise.

Should you have any further queries or concerns then please do not hesitate
to contact us again at

Kind regards,

Given Northern's abysmal record in cancelling trains at the moment due to having forgotten to train enough drivers on new routes and new trains in time, I've no doubt they are accumulating complaints far quicker than they are dealing with them, so it may be a while yet before I get my free ticket.

Incidentally, this whole business of training train drivers on new routes and new trains amuses me. When I became a bus driver (admittedly many years ago now) we trained and passed our test on one type of bus (usually the oldest in the fleet) but were then deemed competent to drive any of the company's buses including brand-new ones that appeared from time to time. And as to routes, we were expected to go anywhere we were needed to - and if we didn't know the way we were expected to just ask the passengers!

I'll let you know when (if) the ticket arrives and where I go.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Claiming Compensation

My planned bus trip "around the county towns of England" is currently meeting with indefinite delay, whilst a domestic problem is resolved, but I haven't been completely idle.

On 15th March I visited Carnforth on the train to attend a meeting of the Lancaster Bus Users' Group, which I chair. Before anyone asks why I went on the train to a bus users' meeting, the meeting was held in a room at the railway station and not only is the bus stop for the return journey to Lancaster a long way up the hill from the station, but in the afternoons, when many buses are commandeered to do school runs, the bus frequency drops alarmingly making the train by far the better option. Or at least it would have been, had the return train not been cancelled, leaving me with 45 minutes to wait for the next.

Carnforth, of course, was the location for the station scenes in the 1945 film "Brief Encounter", where a married man and a married woman meet and don't have an affair! The film features many atmospheric scenes shot at the station, several of which show the station clock, which has become an icon for the film. Here's one of them, with Celia Johnson ("Laura") passing underneath

The clock as it appears in the film
After the station was de-staffed in the 1970s the clock eventually stopped working, but it has been restored and, following a very railway-like dispute over whose job it was to wind it up, now has pride of place in the station again.
The clock today.
If you are wondering why it  doesn't look as it did in the film it's because the filmmakers fitted a false face to prevent continuity errors when filming!

But back to my journey.  Northern Rail has a "Delay Repay" policy that states:

It therefore appears that I am eligible for "50% of the cost of the relevant portion of my return ticket, or a free single ticket to anywhere on the Northern network".  I'm not sure how Northern would calculate "50% of the relevant portion" of my ticket.  A Day Return (shown below) is an incredibly modest £2.20 with a railcard (for a 15 mile round trip!). But a single is £2.10!  This means that depending on how you look at it, the "relevant portion" of my return ticket is worth either £1.10 (half of the overall return fare) or 10p (the additional cost of the return journey over that of the outward leg). Fifty-per-cent of these would give me an expected refund of either 55p or 5p.  It was a no-brainer to choose the "single ticket to anywhere" option, which includes places as far away as Newcastle, Lincoln, Scarborough, Chester or Nottingham!
My ticket on the day.
Getting the compensation however has been a different matter.  I made the claim using the online form on Northern's website, which means I don't have a copy. However, I did receive an automated acknowledgement the same day that told me they would respond to my claim within 20 days. Having heard nothing, I sent a reminder on 17th April, which was not acknowledged. After a further fortnight with still no response I began to look to see how I could take it further. Buried away on Northern's website, very much in the small print, is a section on "complaints" from which it appeared that my best course of action was take the matter up with "Transport Focus"  - an official body that represents the interests of all transport users - road and rail.  Another web form was submitted and another acknowledgement received, this one telling me that:

As Northern (Arriva) have exceeded their advertised response time, we are chasing this with them to establish why a response has not yet been received. As soon as we receive an update from them, we will contact you again.

It remains to be seen whether Transport Focus will be any better at getting a response from Northern than I was. One would like to think so, but I'm not holding my breath. Since I made my complaint the following notice has appeared on Northern's website:

I'll let you know whether I ever get my free ticket - and where I go to.