SCOTRAIL has been named and shamed as one of the train companies that are continuing to provide misleading advice over passengers' rights to compensation claims when trains are delayed or cancelled.

After intervention by the the Office for Road and Rail (ORR), the National Rail Conditions of Travel, the train companies' terms and conditions bible, was changed in March removing a term that suggested travellers were not entitled to claim for reasonable costs when services were disrupted.

But when the consumer organisation Which? scrutinised current practices, it found that some train companies, including ScotRail were still "thumbing their noses" at passengers and the regulator "and potentially breaching consumer law" - by responding with blanket refusals to consider reimbursing for consequential spending such as taxi journeys or hotel bookings.

HeraldScotland: The ScotRail franchise is being awarded to operator Abellio, an offshoot of Dutch national railways

The consumer organisation said this was incorrect even before the March changes, saying passengers were entitled to other expenses under the Consumer Rights Act.

Which? made 'mystery shop' phone calls to 26 operators, asking if an elderly friend or relative was eligible for compensation when their train - the last of the night - was cancelled and they were forced to pay for a cab.

Almost half (12 out of 26) provided "incorrect or inconsistent advice", with the six worst offenders - Cross Country, Grand Central, Greater Anglia, Heathrow Express, ScotRail and Stansted Express - all wrongly saying on every call that they could not make a claim, Which? said.

But when Which? put their findings to the companies ScotRail, Greater Anglia and Grand Central, they said that they do cover consequential losses. The consumer organisation said that this suggests that their individual staff members "are not articulating company policy correctly".

Alex Hayman, Which? public markets managing director, said: "This is the latest in a catalogue of examples of train companies treating their passengers with breathtaking disregard. They have been warned time and again about their duties to ensure their passengers are getting the money they are owed when they fail to deliver, yet they fail to act until forced.

"The regulator must now start showing some teeth and take immediate enforcement action or the Government has no choice but to step in and stand up for passengers and their rights.”

Before the March changes, Which? analysis showed that ScotRail and other firms regularly told passengers, often via social media, that they cannot claim back all the money they spent as a result of disruption.

They said that only the cost of tickets can be reimbursed and not the consequential costs.

Before the changes, the National Rail Conditions of Travel had stated that except for certain circumstances "train companies will not accept liability for any loss, including consequential loss, caused by the delay and/or cancellation of a train services. However, they will consider additional claims in exceptional circumstances."

HeraldScotland: The New Abellio ScotRail franchise was launched by Abellio chief executive Jeff Hoogesteger and Transport Minister Derek Mackay MSP in April

A ScotRail spokesman said: “We are grateful to Which? for highlighting this potential training issue at our contact centre. Our customers are entitled to claim for consequential losses, and we will consider all claims on a case-by-case basis.

“When things go wrong, we will do everything we can to provide replacement buses or taxis to get customers where they need to be.

“Our Passenger Charter makes it clear our responsibilities to customers, which we take very seriously.”

ScotRail was one of the top five train companies that benefitted most from handouts from Network Rail last year, the publicly funded body in charge of Britain's rail infrastructure.

ScotRail was due £28.2 million from line issues in 2016/17 by Network Rail, more than double the previous year but only paid out £587,527 in compensation payments to disgruntled train passengers in the first nine months of the year.

The sum has mainly been awarded mainly through 'Schedule 8' penalty payments which are the result of unscheduled disruptions' due to maintenance failures which lead to delays. Compensation is intended to cover fare revenue loss or costs, such as those associated with running replacement buses.

In May, it emerged ScotRail received record fines of nearly £4.6 million in the last financial year for failing to meet required standards for running the country’s trains and stations.

It clocked up a record £1.6m in financial penalties over the previous three months alone over its failings, nearly £400,000 more than in the previous three months.

The firm, which posted a £3.5m after-tax loss for 2016, failed to reach the required standard in 21 out of 34 areas in the last three months of the financial year.

There was some positive news, as Which? found 13 out of 26 train companies were giving good advice over the phone, an improvement on a similar survey carried