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Rail minister backs passenger compensation bids for taxis and hotels when trains are disrupted

Jo Johnson. Picture by PA
Jo Johnson. Picture by PA

The rail minister has given his support to passengers who want to recoup costs such as taxis and hotels when train services are disrupted.

Jo Johnson acknowledged that some passengers do suffer additional losses due to delays or cancellations and said they should "claim accordingly".

This is despite the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train companies, insisting it is "very unlikely" such claims will be successful.

The Consumer Rights Act, which came into force for the rail industry in October 2016, means passengers can theoretically claim from consequential losses - additional expenses - above the price of the ticket when a train service is not provided with reasonable care and skill.

But the RDG says this is "a very high legal hurdle to clear".

It took until Sunday for rail companies to rewrite their conditions of travel to remove a warning that they will not accept liability for consequential losses.

Consumer group Which? found that firms have previously been incorrectly telling passengers they cannot make such claims.

Industry experts believe the issue - which could be hugely expensive for train operators - will end up in court once passenger groups launch a claim on behalf of passengers left out of pocket due to a severely delayed service.

When asked by reporters if passengers should be entitled to recoup money spent on taxis and hotel rooms, Mr Johnson replied: "There will be consequential impacts for passengers in certain circumstances and it's right the conditions of travel are now making that clear to passengers, so that they can claim accordingly."

He added: "In law they do have certain rights as consumers."

The RDG encourages passengers to claim compensation through the delay repay scheme, which entitles them to payouts based on the length of delay, the type of ticket and the operator responsible.

It says the amount of compensation being paid to passengers has increased five-fold in the past five years to £74million.

Alex Hayman, managing director of public markets at Which?, said: "It's good to see the rail minister backing passengers who should be able to claim for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses when their train service has been disrupted and it is the fault of the train companies.

"Train companies can no longer hide behind misleading terms to avoid compensating passengers and should proactively inform people about their rights. If the rail industry fails to do so, then the Government and the regulator must hold them to account."