/ Travel & Leisure

Automatic compensation – now is the time

train delays

Automatic compensation is at the core of Which?’s #TrainPain campaign. Huw Merriman MP joins us to explain why he has been backing our calls since 2017 and why the Government’s Rail Review is the perfect opportunity to deliver better compensation for rail passengers.

This is a guest post by Huw Merriman MP. All views expressed are Huw’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

There’s no doubt that the last twelve months have been unusually disruptive for rail passengers across the network – from the chaotic timetable changes last May to extreme weather and ongoing infrastructure work. It’s been so disruptive, in fact, that the Government launched an independent Review to identify solutions to drive improvements across the network.

Today, I hosted a drop-in event for MPs in partnership with Which? to raise awareness of the impact of rail delays and the role that compensation can play in driving improvements in the sector. MPs from different parties attended and showed their support – calling on Government and the regulator to guarantee passengers see immediate benefits from any reforms.

Stressful rail travel

As a Member of the Transport Select Committee, and a commuter myself I have experienced the impact of delays first-hand and also heard stories from my constituents highlighting how an unreliable service can impact people’s work and personal lives.

It’s no surprise that research from Which? revealed around half of commuters find travelling by rail frequently stressful – with people missing out on time with family and friends or missing work as a result of the delays.

In a market where people are often not able to vote with their feet and switch train company if they are unhappy, compensation plays a critical role. That’s why I brought my Bill to Parliament that would introduce automatic compensation for delays and cancellations back in 2017. Schemes such as Delay Repay were set up to ensure that when things do go wrong, passengers receive compensation for the disruption caused.

However, despite a number of actions taken by the regulator and train companies themselves, compensation claim rates remain low – just 34% of all passengers eligible for compensation actually claim. For delays of 15 minutes, this drops further to just 18%.

Complicated compensation

Almost two years on and not enough has been done to make compensation easier for passengers and claim rates stay languishing around the 34% mark. Today, Which? analysis found that some train companies ask for up to 24 pieces of information when passengers try to make a claim.

Unnecessary barriers like this mean that people view compensation as complicated or not worth the hassle. In too many cases, passengers aren’t even aware of their right to claim for delays or how they can file a claim.

It’s unacceptable that after struggling to complete their journey on time, people still have to fight to get the money that they are owed.

Now is the time

The case for automatic compensation has never been stronger: it’s the obvious next step for the industry, will deliver huge benefits for rail users across the network, and will ultimately incentivise train companies to deliver a better service.

Some train companies already offer automatic compensation to select passengers, proving that the technology needed to make it work already exists. But this hasn’t been consistently rolled out across the network and even with those operators that do offer it, isn’t available to all passengers.

The Williams’ Review is a huge opportunity to prove to passengers that their needs are at the centre of the railway and to deliver tangible improvements to overhaul compensation systems. The regulator and Review team must ensure it’s an opportunity that they make the most of.

This is a guest post by Huw Merriman MP. All views expressed are Huw’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

Which? has been calling for improvements to be made to the compensation system for rail passengers. Automatic compensation would make sure passengers get compensation they’re entitled to, and encourage the industry to improve its services.

Has trying to claim compensation for rail delays confused you, or even stopped you from claiming compensation?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

James says:
10 May 2019

Three weeks ago I ended up having to book a hotel and spent over £100 in addition to cost of train tickets. I was 1 hour late in the morning and then the trains were cancelled for several hours in the evening. I started filling in the form but it is so ‘well designed’ to discourage you that I didn’t finish. I had bought advance tickets through the trainline app so full cost compensation would be as easy as pie.
Of course if I had bought the wrong ticket (even by mistake) then the companies would fine me on the spot. If fines are on the spot then why not compensation?

This is exactly the sort of reason we are hearing about why people are not claiming. Hopefully this will motivate you to preserve and finish your claim.

Nationalise the railways, they are a national asset being stripped by foreigners. Great. Used to be Great estern, Great Britain, now great rip off.

Simon Holdsworth says:
10 May 2019

I have an annual Metro (West Yorkshire) Travel Pass. When the Northen train I intended to catch was cancelled due to earlier daytime issues, I was told no compensation was possible due to having this pass. Is it only people who buy a separate ticket and not annual passes who can then claim compensation?

Hi Simon,

Looking at the Northern website they say they can not offer compensation to “multi-nodal travel”. However under your consumer rights you can make a claim. The bottom link has more information and a guide to making a claim.



Twice now I have had a delayed train journey and claimed for compensation. My tickets for a return journey were two singles, so when I went through the barrier on my outward journey, the ticket was kept by the machine. The rail company asked for the ticket to be sent, which clearly I couldn’t do. This made for a very complicated procedure, as I had had to change trains and the first train was seriously delayed, which meant I missed my second connection. I did feel like it was my fault I had ‘lost’ my ticket and also my fault I missed my connection!! They just don’t make it easy but I do always claim because I feel I then become part of the statistic, which the companies cannot hide from. When the service is good it is by far the best form of travel BUT we all know problems occur, so why not just put your hands up and pay up!!!

Compensation should be paid for tangible loss, otherwise I’d suggest delays should result in payments being made into rail improvements. Perhaps many of the passengers who do not claim compensation do not believe they have suffered a loss that should be financially compensated.

If automatic compensation were the norm I suspect there could well be fraudulent claims made. For example, just how do you prove you were on the particular delayed train when you have a ticket? Unless it is recorded when you check in and out of the particular service.

I am in favour of compensating people who have identifiable losses but less happy about giving everyone money, whether they deserve it or not. Poor service – contract failure – should require penalty payments to the contract provider. The money could offset statutory fare increases, help fund service improvements for example. But the aim should be to provide a significant deterrent to poor service to make companies weigh the penalty cost against their profitability and dividends.

Just a personal view to add to the debate.:-)

Years Ago Whilst In The Royal Navy At Faslane I had the Misfortune to Come into harbour During Glasgow fair week I Had Been At sea For Over a month ! And Wished to visit my wife Down South , I Got My Normal Return Ticket at Helensburgh and Caught the train To Glasgow On reaching Central Station I Could Not board The Train As I Had Now To get A ” Seat ” ticket . When We Walked From One End Of The Train To The Other And Found No Seats In Second Class And The Passageways And Vestibules Were Packed Whilst The First Class Was a Quarter Full So The Three Of Us Took Our Seats After Leaving Glasgow About An Hour Later The Ticket Collector Came Round And Pointed Out That We Had Second Class Tickets ” Clever ” I Produced My Seat Ticket and said If HE Could Find Me A seat In Second Class I Would Gladly Move ! We Never Saw Him Again And Me Well I Am still a Rebel But What I Want to Know Do’s This Still Happen ? You Would Think Serving Your Country Would Stand For Something Not By Any Government We Have Now !

Jeremy says:
10 May 2019

I am concerned with automatic compensation as the SWR app often understates the delays by 3-4 minutes. I’ve even seen an example where the delayed train disappeared from the app. Also bear in mind the app often switches to “delayed “ after 15 minutes so you may find compensation capped

SWR trains are slippery beasts at times. I often see them just disappear from the boards at the station.

Mike Haines says:
10 May 2019

Compensation should be paid to people who have been let down but the rail company should pay not the tax payer.

j wilson says:
16 May 2019

East Lancs Line passengers should be compensated EVERY TIME they
y travel. The trains are a disgrace. Self respecting cattle would refuse to travel on this line.

Please could you explain how automatic compensation will work. I may enter and leave the system without passing through a gateline and without having my ticket checked on the way. My journey might involve several operators. How will the system know which train I was on?

This will be a part of the review – looking at what needs to happen to introduce to automatic compensation for different situations.

.My local company is GWR. If a fare is less than £40 I have not been claiming because the complex system takes me so long to figure out; getting the right form, finding all the tickets, copying out information etc etc.That part is a pain and sometimes I receive supplementary questions which I laboriously complete only to be told that I wont get refund. The last refusal was because the train was stopped for snow which turned out to be an Act of God and not GWR’s fault.
There seems to be a lack of consistency in gwr responses which is why I have l lost heart in claiming

I tried to make a claim on the SWR Delay Repay but their ticket upload function wasn’t working. I rang SWR customer service and eventually was told that their IT people didn’t work at the weekend so it would be reported on Monday. Having explained that the 28 day time limit allowed for making my claim would’ve expired by the Monday, I was basically told that I shouldn’t have left my claim to the last minute. I’m still waiting for them to respond to my subsequent complaint over 2 months later!!

They had a bit of a disastrous launch of a new system that just didn’t work which I think you must have got caught up in. Fingers crossed you get a response from them soon. Have you chased them? It would be interesting to hear what they say.

Barrie Spink says:
17 May 2019

Before automatic delay repay could work for every one they would need your name address credit card details plus details of your pensioner card and any rail cards used. I do not think that it is possible to do it and retain a turn up and go system

Problems on Greater Anglia tonight, so I applied for ‘delay repay’ – Bearing in mind I have a smartcard travel card (of which they must store all my personal details), the delay repay form needed 31 pieces of information or tick boxes! What a joke – I wonder how much GA need to do to claim compensation from Rail Track when there’s problems on the line, sorry the Government, sorry the tax payer….of yes…US!