Leading academic accuses Herald of mis-leading readers over train disruption compensation and fines


(c) Big Riddie Images

Admittedly former, leading academic, Professor (Retired), Dr John W Robertson, BAHons, PGCE, PG Dip Ed Comp, PG Dip Ed Tech, PGC Media Ed, Master of Education, M App Sc (maker of apple scones) has accused the Herald of exaggerating the scale of compensation claims by passengers and fines. According to the Herald today:

‘The Which? analysis came as it emerged ScotRail received £28 million of public money as redress for track problems last year.  The organisation says ScotRail and other firms regularly tell passengers, often via social media, that they cannot claim back all the money they spent as a result of the disruption. They say that only the cost of tickets can be reimbursed and not the cost of consequential spending such as taxi journeys or hotel bookings. However, Which? says this is incorrect and passengers are entitled to other expenses under the Consumer Rights Act.’

It’s not really that bit which is particularly misleading although the connection between the ‘redress for track problems’ and compensation is unclear, well meaningless, and rail firms believe claiming for these additional or ‘consequent’ costs will be difficult for claimants. See this:


The bit that’s most misleading for readers is the Herald’s failure to contextualise the scale of the problem. They write:

‘Last month it emerged ScotRail clocked up a record £3 million in financial penalties over the first nine months of this financial year for failing to meet required standards for running the nation’s trains and stations, having posted a £3.5m after-tax loss for 2016.’

and later tell us that ScotRail paid out £587,527 in compensation in 2016/2017. Was that a lot? No context is given.

Well, in 2015/16, Scotrail provided 93.2 million passenger journeys over 2.8 billion passenger-kilometres.


So, assuming comparable figures for 2016/2017, ScotRail paid compensation at an average of 0.6p per passenger-journey or 0.0002p per passenger-kilometre. That’s the first piece of context – ScotRail paid a tiny amount in compensation relative to the scale of their overall activity.

Second, the Herald doesn’t mention what the National Rail Passenger Survey for Autumn 2017, published in January 2018, reported. They found that 96% of ScotRail passengers were satisfied overall with their journeys. This placed ScotRail 4th (equal) out of 26 UK rail companies.


So, that’s the second piece of missing context. Overall satisfaction with ScotRail is high, even very high?

Third is the level of fines at £3 million so far in this financial year, very high? The financial year is nearly over. Is that a lot? This answer comes in two parts.

Southern Rail were fined £13.4 million in 2016/17 for just the London to Brighton run so there’s a third piece of context – ScotRail paid a very low level of fines compared to some other rail companies.


Finally, in 2015/16, Scotrail provided 93.2 million passenger journeys over 2.8 billion passenger-kilometres.


Again, assuming reasonably similar figures for 2016/2017, ScotRail were fined an average of around 3p per passenger-journey or 0.1p per passenger-kilometre.


Once more, from the Herald, nothing much at all blown up to mislead readers.


13 thoughts on “Leading academic accuses Herald of mis-leading readers over train disruption compensation and fines

  1. achmony March 8, 2018 / 6:08 pm

    I wish the Herald would just expire, explode, disintegrate. It serves no meaningful purpose whatsoever. Its demise would be sooooooooooooooo welcome!


  2. Alasdair Macdonald. March 8, 2018 / 11:26 pm

    Although you are being tongue-in-cheek, you are also making a genuine point by bumming yourself up. Given your academic field of study, you are an authority. The media love to quote ‘experts’, but only those who suit their own bias. So, head teachers of private sector schools are described as ‘top’ or ‘leading’, whereas, someone such as me, who was the head teacher of three schools, when quoted in the media was simply described as ‘head teacher’ or, if they wanted to imply baaaaaad, STATE school head teacher’. Hugh Pennington, who is an expert on epidemiology is also quoted as an expert of Scottish independence, as is Michelle Mone, because she is a ‘top’ business woman.

    However, the main point is that again you have rapidly debunked a bit of journalistic mendacity.


  3. Contrary March 9, 2018 / 8:26 am

    Haha, I like it! Quite right too, as Alasdair eloquently states, you ARE a leading academic, and the picture supports this 🙂 .


    • johnrobertson834 March 9, 2018 / 8:54 am

      I’m going to have it redone, two stones thinner and less emperor penguin.


  4. Ludo Thierry March 9, 2018 / 2:16 pm

    The Emperor Penguin has no clothes?!


  5. Contrary March 9, 2018 / 5:25 pm

    No no no, not at all, the penguin look adds gravitas, and a bit of bulk adds to the pomp and ceremony. I hope Ludo actually meant NEW clothes, I think NO clothes might be taking it a bit tooooo far? 😀

    .. You could maybe do something about the orange seating in the background, though! It clashes a bit.


  6. Ludo Thierry March 9, 2018 / 5:41 pm

    Given the (inspirational) 2 stone weight loss a set of ‘new clothes’ might be required! – perhaps to be purchased at Alasdair’s ‘Top Man’ emporium (I’m beginning to worry that ‘product placement’ techniques might be infiltrating John’s blog). The colour of the seating might encourage Col. ‘Harrison’ and her britnat massed ranks (Hugh Gaffney MP?) to attend the Emperor’s New Clothes unveiling ceremony!


  7. Ludo Thierry March 9, 2018 / 7:36 pm

    John’s article mentions fines levied for missed targets by Scotrail. the beeb news site is covering a story about Pep Guardiola being fined £20,000 by the (English) FA for wearing his yellow ribbon symbol. Interesting that the English FA CEO reports “..we don’t want political symbols in (English) football”. – In that case I wonder how Wills Windsor will feel about being handed his jotters? Worth a listen to Pep’s passionate and wise comments in the short interview (link below):

    Pep Guardiola: Manchester City manager fined over yellow ribbon

    Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has been fined £20,000 for wearing a yellow ribbon on the touchline during the FA Cup defeat at Wigan.
    On Monday, the Spaniard accepted the Football Association charge for “wearing a political message”, a breach of kit and advertising regulations.
    He has also been warned about his future conduct.

    Two key members of the Catalan independence movement – Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez – were held without bail after an independence vote in October, which the Spanish government deemed illegal.

    Last month, Guardiola said he would continue to wear the ribbon despite being charged for doing so.

    He argued that the symbol was “not about politicians, it’s about democracy”.

    On Sunday, FA chief executive Martin Glenn insisted the ribbon is a political symbol, saying “it’s a symbol of Catalan independence” and “we don’t want political symbols in football”.

    Guardiola responded to those comments by saying Glenn “didn’t understand the reality”.

    The Spaniard (sic) did not wear the ribbon during City’s Premier League match against Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday but did so during the news conference afterwards.

    However, Guardiola wore it during City’s Champions League game against Basel on Wednesday as Uefa, European football’s governing body, has different rules on political symbols.



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