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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.