/ Travel & Leisure

Do you complain when your trains are late or cancelled?

Train campaign illustation

When you’re left shivering on the platform because the train is late or cancelled do you bother to complain? Now’s the time to share your grievances and get the companies to take action.

Our research reveals that one in 10 of us had cause to complain, but three quarters of us didn’t bother to actually complain.

I’ve worked out that I travel by train 500 times per year, and that’s just to get to and from work. My trains are usually late or cancelled about once every two weeks and for years I didn’t bother complaining. Like most of us, I just sat tight or waited for the next one.

But recently I’ve become angrier about my time being wasted by late and cancelled trains. I know that this isn’t always the train companies fault – recently the weather and over-running engineering works by Network Rail have been the biggest reason for me being late to work or late home.

Seeking compensation for delayed trains

So these days, when the trains I’m travelling on or waiting for are more than 30 minutes late I register this through my train company’s site and get some of my money back. It’s a pain that this compensation comes in the form of national rail vouchers – which you can’t use online – and not cash, but they come in handy when I’m renewing my season ticket and at least I’m getting some money back.

One reason why so few of us bother to complain is the way in which complaints are handled – more than half of us who do complain are left dissatisfied with how our complaints are handled, with a third left very dissatisfied.

Train tales shared with Which?

Over the years you’ve shared your views on some of the rail fails you’ve experienced. Michael is concerned about the trouble he has buying a ticket. He said:

‘Many of our local stations are unmanned. Some have ticket machines that take cards but not cash. Ticket collectors/conductors are available on the trains and expect to issue tickets. However, often the conductor never gets round before the train arrives at Leeds and passengers have to queue up to purchase a ticket before they can exit the barrier or continue on their journey.’

And Riina is fed up with cramped conditions:

‘Every morning the trains are so full – there is even no room to turn around or move your hands. The conditions are horrible.’

In response to this, we’ve decided to take action. We want to gather the concerns frustrated passengers have regarding their train experience, and take them straight to the train company concerned.

Have you been let down by your train company? Have you complained before or do you have any trains tale to share with us?


I gave up using public transport many many years ago. It was during one bad spell of weather I managed to get to my connecting station only to spend 2 hours watching all the fast trains go straight though whilst all the slow stopping trains had been cancelled. What should have been a 30 min journey took me 2.5 hours so I got to work late and guess what I was expected to stay late 2.5 hours to make up the time regardless of all the extra unpaid hours I’d already done that week. Never again.And no information as to why.

A few years later I moved. I could have taken the train to work, but the walk to the station took as long as the drive to work, or ignoring the getting to the station the actual train journey took as long than the drive to work. So driving won, trains lost.

We need to train service that’s fit for purpose and not one that’s fit to make money for the train operators

I need disabled assistance for my mobility scooter .Is that going to be no longer when no booking office .Last time I tried train had no assistance.Is it going to be a free for all what about those with bicycles.Surely this will be discrimination.

sonia says:
17 February 2014

15 months ago I ended up changing my working hours due to a consistently late service which was also overcrowded due to lack of carriages meaning sometimes I didnt even get on the train and had to wait for the next one (only 2 trains an hour at my station) this nearly lost me my job and ended up being off work with anxiety, luckily my HR department agreed that I could start later due to the earlier peak time trains being unreliable, although this means I now finish later so rather than 9-5 its now 10-6 with an hour added on either way for travel.

I wrote to my MP who got a response to say that the train I usually caught had such a tight
turnaround time at a prior station that it wasnt always able to be on time along with there was no funding for extra carriages on this particular service and carriages were needed elsewhere.

It is soul destroying having yearly increases for no improvements and the daily pressure of is the train going to be on time / turn up at all.

Staggered working hours would help spread the commuter peak. Why does it not happen? Civil and public service could take a lead in this – reduce the waste in time and utilise trains more effectively.

Staggered working hours would mean management trusting the staff more. That would never have happened were I worked. Although I was fortunate to be able to get in at 07:30 and leave at 16:30 missing the traffic at both ends of the day.

Why would it require trust? I heard of one incident where one overnight worker was found asleep in his sleeping bag. His excuse. I didn’t have any work. HE couldn’t be trusted to find any, and trust me there was LOADS available. He worked in customer support and the system at the time had in excess of 4000 open calls.

Plenty of systems for clocking in – we used swipe cards. No need for trust (but what a pity if you can’t!)

David says:
17 February 2014

A big well done to ?Which for exposing the worst rail operators. No surprise that South Eastern are at the bottom. I have first hand experience of their complete disregard for customers, content to play statistics to get rail fare increases. When trains are late, they simply speed them up to get into London on time missing commuters and school children for “performance”. We waited over two months for a fare refund and had to chase 3 times otherwise it would never have come. My fellow commuters all agree and yet the Government has just granted South Eastern a new 4 year franchise with no penalty. How does that work?

Catherine says:
17 February 2014

I think the one thing that angers me most is the virtually empty first class carriages on peak commuter trains. The majority of the regular or “second class” commuters are squeezed in with barely room to breathe whilst three of the twelve carriages are seriously under occupied. Surely a maximum of one first class carriage per 12 coach train is adequate? Or maybe put all the first class carriages together and have one first class train per crush hour for all the rich boys to travel on together and relive the pressure on the rest of us . . .

Up until last month I had never been on a train (no need to), but then I found out dogs can go on trains and as i don’t drive It’s hard to take my girl Bella to new places.

For the last few weeks Me and Bella have been walking to the other side of Leeds and getting the train back home again for our morning walk. It’s a company called East Coast Trains and I have never had a problem yet. Sometimes it’s 1-2mins late, but hey, buses can be like that too.

Plus It’s cheaper, The bus would cost £2.80, but the train only costs £2.40. The plan is to get Bella used to trains so in a few months we can go to other places in Yorkshire as it really is a beautiful place of the UK. But I am starting slow and making sure she is fully used to it.

I have also found the staff very helpful & the staff on the trains always make a fuss of her too and she is loving it. So all in all I’m very happy.

Oh and just to please Which? and to keep it on-topic, Yes i would complain (via Twitter) if it was very late or cancelled.

Matt is concerned about his time being wasted by late and cancelled trains, but I think it is time to go back to the days when people lived near where they worked, which would remove a lot of hassles in our lives.

When I was at secondary school I hated the time wasted waiting for buses and the three mile journey, twice a day. Avoiding commuting any distance has always been a priority for me and for most of my adult life I lived approximately 1.5 miles from work. Commuting uses a lot of fuel, so it’s not just our time that it is wasting. Sadly, society has conditioned many to accept that it is acceptable to spend time and money on commuting large distances.

Now that I am retired I use the train periodically, avoiding rush hours if at all possible. So far the only major problem was cancellation of all trains out of Scotland one day early in the New Year and total chaos on the following day. I could have claimed compensation but I was just grateful to get home safely.

James Rail says:
18 February 2014

I travel with FGW most days of the week, I have to say the intercity fleet is very clean I.E. there is no rubbish left on the floor, or anything disgusting left on the seats! (yet anyway), There customer service is very good, friendly and approachable, However XC, having been on a few of their trains there was rubbish all over the floor(hardly anywhere to put my feet) there was that much rubbish, Once again the customer service was superb, very friendly staff, the only thing I dislike is the trolley service, I find it very annoying for 2 reasons. 1) its pretty much in your face 2) when the trolley gets stopped near your seat you feel stuck, and also it clogs up the trains when passengers are trying to leave the train for their station. The vestibule area(corridor) on the voyagers was disgusting, smelling of sewage! Finally we have SWT, utterly useless company. Trains are 6/10 times LATE, the toilet stank and hadn’t been cleaned(im guessing all the “things” from passengers from London) toilet paper on the floor, DISGUSTING. All in all FGW is the best out of all our train operators in the South West, It would be nice however, if the government would let them buy some New trains!!!!