Office of Rail and Road
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ORR welcomes improvements in notifications of alterations to pre-booked trains but better explanation of passengers’ options needed

The Office of Rail and Road has written to train operators saying that ticket retailers need to build on the good progress of automatic notifications, by providing improved clarity for passengers regarding their rights when there are changes to booked trains. The regulator also advises operators to consider their ticket flexibility policies when trains are cancelled, as a way to give greater choice for passengers and ease congestion.

Liverpool Street station concourse


ORR is pleased that since it wrote to all operators in January 2023, the vast majority have implemented a new system, which enables notifications to be sent to ticket retailers (whether train companies, independent retailers, or travel management companies) when trains are changed or cancelled more than 48 hours before travel. Passengers who have booked online are then sent an email or text notifying them of any changes to their service. 

However, ORR’s review of these notifications found they are often lacking information and clarity when explaining the full range of options available to affected passengers. 

ORR expects all operators to review the content of their notifications to ensure that they are clear and provide useful information to passengers, including setting out their rights and options. 

The regulator is also discussing this matter with independent retailers, who are responsible for contacting passengers who purchase tickets using their websites or apps. 

ORR would also like operators to consider their policies on ticket flexibility where trains are cancelled, to give greater choice for passengers.

The regulator says it would like all ticket retailers to secure the right outcomes for customers and would expect any necessary changes - whether to the National Rail Conditions of Travel, retail systems or individual train operator policies - to be progressed at pace.

Stephanie Tobyn, director of strategy, policy and reform says: 

“Retailers and operators have recognised the need for passengers to receive accurate and helpful advice if their booked journey is changed. While 1.8 million notifications have already been sent this year, it is important that the notifications are easy to understand and provide useful information to passengers, including setting out their rights and options clearly.

“There is also a need for operators to look into offering more ticket flexibility for affected passengers, no matter what sort of ticket they have. A passenger who books their ticket in advance of travel needs to be treated fairly, not just offered a refund if the industry then changes its timetable nearer the date of travel.

“We will continue to monitor how the industry reacts to these concerns.” 

Notes to Editors

  1. Letter to train operating companies 
  2. The Smarter Information, Smarter Journeys programme was established by the rail industry in response to a request from ORR that it develops a strategy for improving passenger information. As part of that programme a workstream developed personalised journey notifications. 1.8 million notifications had been sent by the end of May 2023.
  3. Transport for Wales plans to implement the system by September 2023 and ORR continues to work with c2c to ensure its notifications system meets the standard requirements.
  4. Passenger information licence conditions 
  5. The National Rail conditions of travel (paragraph 30.1) makes provision for a fee-free refund from the retailer if the service is cancelled, delayed or rescheduled.


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