The Liberal Democrats have written to the government to complain over rail operator First Group’s handling of customer complaints.
Sarah Olney MP, the party’s transport spokesman, said that the FTSE 250 firm’s “track record leaves a lot to be desired”.
It comes after new data from the Office of Road and Rail (ORR) showed that First Group operated the country’s three worst performing rail franchises for customer complaint handling.
Bottom of the pile was the Transpennine Express franchise, with just 15.1 per cent of customers saying they were satisfied with how their complaint was handled.
Great Western Railway and Avanti West Coast fared little better, with 22.4 per cent and 24.9 per cent of passengers satisfied with the handling.
However, when it comes to the outcome of complaints, South Western and Avanti did a lot better, with 33.1 and 32.5 per cent of customers satisfied with the outcome, putting them in the middle of the table of operators.
But Transpennine was once again near the bottom, with an outcome satisfaction rating of 25.4 per cent, the third worst.
In addition, First Group operates three out of the top four most complained about rail operators in the country, including the worst performer, Avanti West Coast.
The firm said it had invested in improving its complaints handling last year, but apologised for any inconvenience caused.
In her letter, Olney called for rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris to meet with the firm to address the issue.
She said: “When people are forced to fork out more and more each year to take a train, it is only right that they are left satisfied that their complaints have been handled properly. However, the Government keeps rewarding firms with lucrative contracts which leave passengers feeling short changed.
“Britain’s biggest rail operator snubs passengers by clearly handling complaints poorly. With commuters on these routes paying over £10,000 a year just to take the train to work each day, you would expect the highest levels of satisfaction with the service they receive. Instead, the firm’s track record leaves a lot to be desired.
“I am calling on the Rail Minister to meet with First Group to address the situation, and ensure all future franchise contracts have proper safeguards in place for passengers wishing to complain.”
Her letter comes just weeks after the government set out plans for what would be the most radical overhaul of the UK’s rail network since the beginning of privatisation 30 years ago.
The government said that the plans would put the customer back at the centre of the network, but some measures like carnet-style flexible season tickets have already come in for criticism.
A DfT spokesperson said: “The Williams-Shapps Plan will ensure our railways are truly passenger focused, with strong protections in place on contracts that prioritise excellent customer service.
“The Rail Minister will respond to the letter in due course.”
A First Rail spokesperson said: “We take all customer complaints seriously and apologise for any inconvenience customers have faced in contacting our train companies with a complaint.
“We have invested in a new contact centre last year which has improved our handling and processing of complaints. We will take on board the findings of the ORR and continue our efforts to offer the best possible service to customers.”