/ Travel & Leisure

Beastly commutes: is it time for auto comp for train delays?

snow on tracks

It’s snow joke: commuting has been a pain this week. Delays and cancellations have been rife, despite the ‘Beast from the East’ snow storm arriving pretty much as predicted. So is it time for train passengers to get automatic compensation for delays and cancellations?

Many of you will have been graced with a dusting, or a few centimetres, of snow over the past few days. And as Carol Kirkwood on BBC Breakfast has reminded me every morning this week: it’s cold, it’s getting colder and there’s more snow on the way.

Despite attempts by the Beast to stop me, I’ve just about managed to keep commuting as normal this week. And judging by how packed my trains have been, so have many of my fellow commuters.

For the latest updates on how my trains are running, I’ve been keeping a close eye on Twitter to see what other irritated passengers are tweeting (the news from my train operator hasn’t been particularly forthcoming).

And I’ve grown accustomed to wrapping up warm, with walking boots to steady myself, for the inevitable lengthy waits on the platform for the train to finally crawl into the station.

This morning was no exception, and I found myself stood for the best part of an hour, as one train was cancelled and another delayed.

And as I peer through the windows of our Marylebone Road office and watch the snow continue to tumble down outside, I wonder what’s in store for my commute home – will I be caught up in travel havoc?

Claiming compensation

Of course, I can claim compensation for these delays, In fact, I’m well versed at it now – I take out my phone and note down the date and time of the delay. That way, when I eventually find a moment to file my claims, I have all the details I need.

The actual process of filing a claim for me isn’t too much trouble – it requires a log in (because the train company then has all of my details on record), I also need the details and image of my season ticket (which I have a photo of on my phone) and then the date, time and reason for delay.

Providing you have all the information, the process takes about 10 minutes. But when you find yourself doing this every day, and sometimes twice a day, it’s takes up a fair chunk of time.

Now, every time I fill in that pesky form I wonder whether it should be simpler. I’m a delayed passenger, who has been told so by the train driver apologising for the delay, now having to prove the delay to the train company with all supporting evidence. The company will then examine the evidence and credit my bank account if it agrees.

Train companies automatically receive compensation from Network Rail for disruptions but most train companies require passengers to jump through hoops to get their money back. But most train companies require their passengers to complete the admin forms, and some are trickier than others.

While we have free online guides to help affected passengers navigate the confusing claims system, these don’t fix the problem of train companies not dishing out the dough that’s owed to all of their affected customers.

Isn’t it time hat train companies sorted this out, improved their systems and simply automatically compensated their customers?

Do you agree that delayed rail passengers should be automatically compensated for rail disruptions like the rail companies are? Have you been delayed by the Beast from the East, too? Have you found it tricky to claim for a train delay or cancellation?


But how do you make it work? The system has to know you’ve actually travelled on a delayed train. And claiming compensation for a delayed train when in fact you were on the one before or after, or didn’t even travel that day, is fraud.


Yes, they do need to know that you actually travelled on their train. Some train companies have managed to roll out automatic compensation as they have a ticketing system that can support this. Smart ticketing is one way to support moving to automatic compensation.


We are still a long way away from having a comprehensive smart ticketing system. There are so many difficulties to be ironed out [many caused by the impenetrable fares structure and conditions of carriage, etc] that the tangerine train tickets will be with us for many years to come.


Even with Oyster it isn’t foolproof. You sometimes get automatic compensation if a line wasn’t working properly at the time you touched in. But not always. I was a Circle line regular where with its ten-minute interval just one cancelled train and the next one running late can delay you by more than 15 minutes. I had to claim manually each time.


This is one issue I see with automatic compensation. It will simply push up prices for everyone. To me, a 15 min delay should not be a problem. We need to take account of possible delays in our planning. Will motorist be compensated when they get held up? We should make time in our schedule for unexpected events.

ian says:
2 March 2018

For every train that is cancelled
that equal number of days is free travel including parking. Eg 100 train journeys cancelled = 100 free days travel for everyone. It is only because of the total incompetence of network rail that any train is cancelled due to 1 inch of snow.


That is not the reason most services were cancelled, Ian. It was a combination of safety for passengers at stations, safety of personnel – not just train drivers but track workers and signallers – availability of rolling stock and crews, very low temperatures affecting equipment, and low visibility in blizzard conditions particularly of signals and of trains.

Far from Network Rail being incompetent I consider the organisation has performed magnificently to provide a safe network and enable the train companies to operate a good number of services on important routes. Network Rail management carries a huge burden of responsibility at times like this that most people would not be able to discharge safely or responsibly. Would you send a train out in these conditions not knowing what might happen and whether or not it would reach its destination and then return safely?

There are times when it is indisputably best to close parts of the network rather than give a false impression of reliability. Very few journeys are vital and people had fair warning of this interruption to normal life and time to change their plans.


I do wonder why people travel in such conditions. I may be unfair (I suppose I sometimes am) but a motorist stuck in Scotland had set off from Aberdeen, destination Devon, presumably having seen that the weather could not have been worse on that journey. Whilst he might have suffered (self inflicted0 inconvenience, how many others might have been even more inconvenienced in a rescue. Equally, why undertake train travel, knowing the weather was likely to cause disruption, and then talk of claiming compensation? But, I may be being unfair. Are such journeys really necessary though?