Complaining about public transport
When you use rail, bus or taxi services, you have a right to get where you want to go with the same level of service and access to transport as other passengers.
If you are unhappy with the service and you think there’s something the providers can and should change, it’s worth complaining. This can help you and others to get the service you are entitled to.
Your right to accessible transport
By law, all transport providers should offer an accessible service. This service might not be the same across different modes of transport. Find out more about the rights of disabled passengers (GOV.UK).
Staff must support you and treat you with courtesy. If you feel like you were mistreated or abused, you have a right to complain and ask how the service is going to be improved.
Why it’s important to complain
Complaining can take time and effort. You may experience the same problems again and again, but complaining can help make the service better for you and other people in the long term.
Staff must support you when you want to travel. If they do not, it’s important to complain. The company cannot fix a problem if they do not know about it.
What you can complain about
You can complain when there’s a problem with your journey, such as:
- delays to your journey or cancelled trains
- missing a connecting service, like a bus or train, because of delays or problems with your journey
- rude or unhelpful staff, particularly when you are asking staff for help, such as with getting on a bus
- assistance not turning up or not knowing when your assistance will arrive
- taxi drivers running the meter while helping you get into the cab or refusing to take you with an assistance dog
Asking staff for help on public transport
If your booked train assistance does not turn up
Many travel providers have a compensation system, sometimes called ‘Delay Repay’. You may be able to make a claim without making an official complaint.
You may be entitled to compensation if:
- there is a delay or cancellation to your journey
- you have to take another mode of transport, like a taxi, to finish your journey
Make your complaint to the company
You need to make your first complaint with the company you travelled with, such as Virgin, Arriva or Northern Rail. The transport company should investigate your complaint.
You do not have to complain at the time unless you want to. You can complain in writing or over the phone. If you complain in writing, keep a copy of your letter, email or ‘contact us’ form text, as well as the company’s responses, for your records.
It’s important to complain to the company first to give them a chance to resolve the issue. You cannot take your complaint further, for example to the Rail Ombudsman, if you have not done this.
There are organisations that can help you with your first complaint.
Resolver travel complaints support
Transport Focus help and advice
Warning Try to get help before complaining
Speak to transport staff to help you continue your journey after an incident or disruption. The company may be able to support you, like getting you a taxi when your train is cancelled.
If you do not give staff a chance to resolve your problem during your journey, the company might not compensate you in a complaint afterwards.
Contact the local authority where the taxi is licensed rather than complaining to the taxi driver or company. All licensed taxis should have council licence plates on the back of the vehicle. This will show the registration number, licence number and the local authority that licenses the taxi. This includes private hire vehicles (PHVs) like mini cabs and Uber.
Sharing information and evidence
Sharing the right information will help the company to investigate your complaint. Where possible, try to make a note of:
- which transport company you used, like Great Northern Railway
- the date and times
- location, like the train station, carriage number, bus stop, taxi rank
- route details, like London to Brighton line or bus route 35
- names of staff
- the taxi licence number or the cab licence plate
- any complaints you made at the time and who you spoke to
If your issue was related to an impairment or condition, only share information that’s relevant to your complaint.
“I have a guide dog and the taxi driver would not take me on my journey.”
“I am Deaf and I was unable to hear the announcement about the platform changing. I missed my train because of this.”
Get any supporting evidence you can if it’s safe and legal to do so. This might be:
- taking pictures, like luggage in the wheelchair space
- taking videos or audio recordings
- making notes of incidents on your phone
- talking to anyone who could be a witness
- scans or pictures of your ticket or copies of any supporting documents
- asking for CCTV footage
Warning CCTV recordings may be kept for a limited time
Making your complaint quickly can help if you need CCTV footage.
Getting a response
If you do not get a response after 14 working days, send your complaint again. If you are sending your complaint in writing and you get no response, contact the company in a different way. For example, calling or contacting customer services on social media.
Using social media to raise awareness
Social media can help you to raise awareness of problems when using public transport. It can also be effective in getting a quick response from a company.
- contact the company using Twitter or Facebook as the threat of bad publicity can make companies take action
- write about your personal experiences on a blog or in a letter to a newspaper
- join other people experiencing similar problems and start a campaign
You might also want to follow other disability campaigners on Twitter, such as:
What to expect from the transport provider
Companies will handle complaints in different ways. You should always get a response from the company saying that they are looking into the problem.
The company might also:
- give you financial compensation if you take on extra costs because of their service, like more travel or lost work. You may have to ask for it.
- give staff extra training if they’re providing a poor service. This could cover things like disability and inclusion.
- respond with a template letter that does not address your complaint. Keep contacting the provider until they deal with your problem or contact an independent organisation to investigate.
If your complaint is not resolved
There are organisations that can investigate your complaint for you when you do not get an answer or you are not happy with the response.
They often act on your behalf and get the transport provider to deal with the complaint. They will sometimes help the company to improve their service. They aim to help you resolve the problem with the transport provider without going to court.
The Rail Ombudsman deals with rail companies. The Rail Ombudsman may refer you to Transport Focus for some complaints.
Bus Users helps with bus and coach complaints.
London TravelWatch can help with transport complaints in London.
It’s important to try to get the company to deal with your complaint first. If they have failed to resolve your problem, you may decide to take legal action. Going to court can take time and money.
Finding legal help
Disability discrimination support from Citizens Advice
Last reviewed by Scope on: 05/04/2019