Establish a travel guarantee regulation providing help or compensation to customers in the case of delays, missed connections, wrong information, or other shortcomings in order to increase the attractiveness of your service and customer satisfaction
Even in the case of High Quality Public Transport things can go wrong. Buses can be delayed because of traffic jams or accidents, or the service can be totally cancelled. In that case travel guarantees can assist in keeping the ‘goodwill’ of public transport customers.
In the case of delays or cancellations passengers should be adequately looked after and informed. If the operator fails to provide passengers with the necessary assistance, passengers should have a right to obtain compensation. In 34 % of the cities analysed by PROCEED there are such guarantees in the form of a refund of the ticket price, the corresponding taxi fare, a day ticket for free, the cost of making the trip by their own car etc. In many cities (for example in Sweden and Germany) the limit for the travel guarantee is set at 20 minutes delay or more.
Further travel guarantees may provide compensation in the following cases:
Missing co-ordinated connections (only rarely found, sometimes restricted to the last run of the day),
Damage to clothes while travelling in a vehicle,
Wrong information provision.
The procedure for a travel guarantee should provide the following characteristics:
Adequate compensation (preventing the compensation being regarded only as ‘symbolic’)
A clear regulation (describing what is compensated and what is not)
Easily obtainable by the customer (simple application e.g. by Internet)
Manageable clearing costs for the operator (standardised process, low handling costs)
Authenticity of claims to be capable of being tested (verification of incidents e.g. by performance data).
A travel guarantee has to be regarded as a marketing tool to stress the service orientation of the operator,with controllable financial impacts at least for urban bus systems. For that reason, the travel guarantee has to be publicised by marketing campaigns to make it well-known to all users. All Swedish Public Transport Authorities have already voluntarily adopted a travel guarantee, ensuring passengers’ rights of compensation.
In its recent proposal for a regulation on passenger rights in bus and coach transportCOM(2008)817 (Brussels, 04.12.2008), the commission proposes the following rules in the case of cancellations or long delays (longer than 2 hours). Although such heavy delays are not relevant in local public transport, the general rules can be applied accordingly. According to the proposed regulation, in the case of long delays passengers should:
Be offered alternative transport services under reasonable conditions or, if that is impractical, be informed of adequate alternative transport services of other transport operators;
Receive reimbursement of the ticket price unless they accept alternative transport services referred to in point 1.;
Have the right to compensation amounting to 100 % of the ticket price if the bus and / or coach undertaking fails to provide alternative services or information as referred to in point 1.
Whilst the desirability of having a legal requirement for compensation is a matter of controversy within the public transport sector, we would argue that from a marketing and customer-relations perspective there are many reasons why operators and public transport authorities should have their own well-advertised travel guarantee policies, appropriate to their particular situations.
A travel guarantee may imply a double penalty for the operator concerning the same deficit in quality: (1) the travel guarantee in relationship to the customer itself, (2) a malus system agreed in a contract with the respective authority. Both approaches should therefore be implemented in a co-ordinated manner.
A different financial impact on different types of service should be acknowledged, especially in connection with tendered services. While high-frequency urban bus services tend to have no delays in terms of the provided travel guarantee (frequency is above the travel guarantee’s threshold), cases of compensation will occur more often in regional rail or bus services with lower frequencies (below the travel guarantee’s threshold).
Bergamo (Italy): In the case of delays of more than 30 minutes, the operator will refund two tickets with the price of the trip. In cases of necessary use of a taxi, 5 tickets are refunded.
Euskirchen (Germany): The urban bus service in Euskirchen applies a travel guarantee (‘PünktlichkeitsGarantie’ / punctuality guarantee) compensating heavy delays: If the service is more than 20 minutes late, the operator will refund a taxi ride. The travel guarantee is applied by all public transport operators within Greater Cologne public transport association. In some other areas in Germany a refund is provided for damage to clothes while travelling in a vehicle (refund of dry-cleaning costs).
Gävle (Sweden): Refund or value card (up to the value of the corresponding taxi fare) is the way of compensating for shortcomings in (a) keeping to the timetable (time loss >20 min), (b) providing information to the customers, (c) treating the customers, (d) cleanliness and tidiness in buses. This constitutes a well-marketed travel guarantee.
Ljubljana (Slovenia): In a case of bus delays of more than 15 minutes caused by the operator, the passenger can receive a ticket refund. The travel guarantee is provided in accordance with the national Slovenian road transport law. As the bus frequency of the network is relatively high (3 to 6 minutes), delays of more than 15 minutes are rare.
Luleå (Sweden): The Luleå urban public transport operator LLT has a travel guarantee consisting of four promises: 1) You can trust the timetable. 2) You get all the necessary information that you need. 3) When you are delayed by at least 20 minutes you may be entitled to compensation or reimbursement, e.g. for a taxi ride. 4) Customers contacting LLT are always treated in a friendly way. The travel guarantee is not valid at times of extreme weather conditions or strikes.