/ Travel & Leisure

Update: consequential loss – are you aware of your rail rights?

If your train journey goes wrong, rail companies in certain circumstances have a duty to compensate you. But how often are they honouring this?

When a train is delayed or cancelled, many passengers find themselves having to take alternative transport (such as a bus or a taxi), paying for a hotel, or even missing connecting flights.

If the delay or cancellation was caused because the train company failed to deliver the service with reasonable care and skill, then passengers should be able to recover reasonable and foreseeable damages from the train company – but our latest research shows that this isn’t always being made clear to passengers.

On 11 March, the terms and conditions used by the majority of train companies were updated to remove a potentially misleading term about when compensation for consequential loss could be claimed.

Which? previously campaigned for these terms to be made clearer and to ensure that passengers were aware of their rights to claim compensation. But three months on from the changes, we still aren’t convinced that passengers are always getting the right advice from train companies.

Mystery shop

In April, we mystery-shopped 26 train companies. Our callers asked whether their elderly friend or relative was eligible for compensation when their train (the last one of the night) was cancelled, forcing them to pay for a taxi.

Disappointingly only half of the train companies gave us the correct advice. A shocking 6/26 companies investigated failed to tell customers when they might be able to claim for consequential loss on both calls, while a further six were inconsistent with their advice, meaning some callers were told that they might be able to claim while others weren’t. The worst offenders were ScotRail, Greater Anglia, Grand Central, Stansted Express, CrossCountry and Heathrow Express.

Confronting the rail companies

We put our findings to rail companies ScotRail, Greater Anglia, Stansted Express and Grand Central. All said that they do cover consequential losses – but it seems their staff aren’t passing on company policy correctly. Heathrow Express told us it plans to retrain its team. CrossCountry didn’t respond to our requests.

We also looked at each train company’s website to see what kind of information passengers could get online. The picture was mixed, but again disappointing, with 18 out of 26 rail companies failing to provide good enough information to customers about when they might be able to claim for consequential loss, with most simply failing to provide any information about when they would consider a claim.

Of those that were incorrect, Great Western, and East Midlands told us that they have now updated their websites and Heathrow Express (which uses different Ts&Cs) said it had updated its terms and conditions as a result of our investigation. Hull Trains say it is reviewing its Passenger Charter.

Simply not good enough

This is simply not good enough and is evidence of an industry that doesn’t work for its customers. It shouldn’t take us watching operators like a hawk to ensure they help consumers claim for what they may be owed.

Passengers should be able to enjoy a reliable service when making their way from A to B, and when this service is impacted should be able to trust that train companies will provide compensation when it is due.

We have seen major delays wreak havoc on routes across the UK over the past few weeks – and are hearing from consumers who have been left out of pocket and unable to get to work or home due to cancelled and delayed trains.

As a further kick in the teeth, we have been told that passengers are being blocked on social media when asking about claiming compensation or, as our results show, explicitly being given the wrong information about compensation that they may be able to claim.

Have you been on a delayed train and think you may be owed compensation? Or have you already been told that you are unable to claim?

Passengers shouldn’t have to fight for the compensation they are owed after they’ve fought their way on to yet another delayed and overcrowded service. We want to hear your #TrainPain stories so we can take the fight straight to the rail companies and continue to campaign for them to start treating passengers fairly.

Update: 19 July 2018

Long-suffering rail passengers will soon have a new body to take their complaints to if they’re not happy with the outcome their train company gives them.

The new independent rail ombudsman will be launched in November and will have the power to hold train operators to account, the rail industry body announced on 18 July.

You can read more about the ombudsman announcement here.


It’s disappointing that after so much coverage of the CRA being applied to travel we’re still seeing companies getting it wrong. I see so many people on Twitter claiming they’ve been left stranded after having the last train cancelled at night. I do wonder how much money has gone unclaimed, and where that excess cash ends up!

I’m getting very frustrated with all these rail issues, just like the rest of the nation! I now leave 45 minutes earlier because my train to work is constantly changing and being cancelled. It can be very stressful.

I was on a train home from London on Friday night and it was packed, just like rush hour, because it was the first train to stop at all stations in two hours. Passengers need to make sure they’re claiming for all these delays. I claim on the train platform, while I wait for my severely delayed trains…

I don’t bother claiming. The process is just too opaque, the exclusions too numerous, the rules too restrictive and the method of re-imbursement too cumbersome. Cheques, for goodness sake. I think frequent travellers with monthly passes, for example should be automatically re-imbursed after every transgression by bank transfer.

I have never had a claim paid. There is no clarity as to how much s due, how it is calculated and how or when decisions are made. I submit my claim on line and then never hear anything. So why bother?
It appears that the compensation passengers receive is a fraction of the amounts the train companies receive and that in some cases, (Southern, for example) the tax-payer covers all losses so ther eis absolutely no incentive to improve performance.

WHAT !!! no my claims go straight into my bank account now, takes days and always paid out

Daniel says:
1 August 2018

What company do you travel with?

When claiming from Northern it can take over 3 months; I then email chasing up the claim. Before I get a response to my email chasing up the claim (six months after submitting the delay repay claim) I get the compensation paid.

Then about 7 months after submitting the claim I receive a response to me chasing up them saying that it has been paid!

Northern won’t compensate you unless the train is over 30 minutes late, which rather stretches the concept of punctuality. They are also prone to ignoring requests for compensation. The recent publicity about Northern’s rubbish service is at least ten years after the event, they’ve been hopeless for years.

Daniel says:
1 August 2018

It takes ages for them to compensate you if the train if over 30 minutes late; I think there needs to be a delay repay for delayed delay repay claims.

More about the ‘train pain’. I have not claimed for compensation once since 20 May, when the latest chaos began — not because I’m not owed it for virtually every evening journey home, but by the time I get home, late every night, I am so tired that all I want to do is have dinner, walk the dogs, and go to sleep. I want some blanket compensation for the misery this has caused: not being able to get to scheduled exercise classes, my husband having to wait and wait and wait for me at the rail station, overcrowded and uncomfortable trains with additional stops, trains cancelled mid-route because there are no qualified drivers for the full journey, trains cancelled before they even start up while you are sitting on them, and delays delays delays. Season ticket holders should not have to file every journey to make a claim.

There is a company called delay repay sniper and they will make claims for you if you pay something like £10 a month, £3.75 if you just want a tracklist of cancellations and you make claim yourself

when i was a kid, trains ran on the dot, and arrived at destinations on time, this enabled me to cross town and get a connection. That was in BR days, I blame two orgs for the current situation Union dictating rules, not letting drivers be available for drivers going ‘sick’ on summer days amnd usless fat cats who make the decisions. Unioons are in control of our railways. Why cant we be like Japan, highly organised, on time and dependable.

It’s not just the overcrowding, it’s punctuality and the rather aged rolling stock used on the local services. It’s also reliability of the infrastructure, particularly the signalling system which appears to have no resilience in bad weather – my partner is currently trying to obtain compensation from Scotrail for a service that was 2hrs late which appears to be as complex, irritating and difficult as finding hen’s teeth.

I could go on and on, but it appears to be pointless (no pun intended) as no one appears to be listening.

I used to commute to and from London way back in the 1970s – on occasion there was standing room only in some of the carriages, however this was not as bad as I’ve seen it recently on the television. With such large scale overcrowding, this obviously presents a huge safety risk. If the Driver applied the brakes in an emergency stop, many of those standing passengers would be propelled forward due to the momentum with the potential of serious injury or even death. The Train companies and the Government should address this issue urgently to make our railways much safet than they currently are.

The idea that having paid for a seat people are sometimes obliged to stand is terrible. Overcrowding is a problem as is communication when things go unavoidably wrong. The idea also that train guards may become a thing of the past does not inspire confidence in safety.

I often let a train go and 30 minutes for the next one due to overcrowding. I have a disability which means I cannot stand so have to wait for a train with seats available. We’ve all paid for a seat. We should all get a seat.

That’s awful to hear 🙁 Have you asked your train company for a “please offer me a seat” badge? That could help you get a seat more often, although when trains are packed it’s hard to spot people in need of a seat so I understand your concern.

Have you heard of the new “look up” campaign on the tube? https://www.standard.co.uk/news/transport/tfl-tube-announcements-will-tell-commuters-to-look-up-for-people-who-need-a-seat-a3890846.html

I can identify with that Wendy having spinal problems I use your solution re buses and trams. Train travel has become an appalling experience over the last 12 years the worst when I was forced to stand for over 3 hours returning from Chester, I had to be carried off the train by my wife and son in law due to debilitating leg spasm, but that could be due to the Governments media hype on the public ‘the disabled are scroungers as 30% – 50% of disabled parking is quite often occupied by anybody.

The way that passengers are treated deserves to be investigated. Buses commonly have notices asking passengers to press a button to request that the bus stops but many drivers set off long before passengers have reached a seat after boarding.

“many drivers set off long before passengers have reached a seat Not on my local rural route. Is there a survey that shows this? However I would expect that many buses in towns must keep moving otherwise they would not meet sensible timetables. It was certainly the case when I used buses and trams regularly and passengers dealt with it. The infirm and elderly were looked after, though.

I have not conducted a survey and my comment is based on personal observation, supported by what I have been told by others. It’s something that I first noticed in the mid-70s, following an accident that left me unsteady on my feet.

Southern only allow you to claim for 5 delay repays at a time which is just time consuming and annoying. Why only 5 before you have to re input info again. My monthly fare is around £400 and this month alone I have claimed around £112 from delayed or cancelled trains (one week it was a straight 5 evenings in a row). My train is only hourly so there is a long wait if one train is cancelled. The trains are only 8 carriages and 12 would make life so much more pleasant and bearable. If I work late and then trains are cancelled or delayed it mean I don’t see my son and its then I really resent Southern and all the unions (strikes in 2016/2017)

Daneil says:
1 August 2018

I wish that I could travel on 8 carriage trains; on Northern if 4 carriages turn up on an hourly service, everyone at the station gets excited as there is the chance that they might actually fit on the train (there might even be a couple of seats) despite my station only being 2 stations from the origin and having many more stations to serve before people start getting off. I would love to travel on an 8 or 12 carriage train; it might mean that everyone could actually get on and we wouldn’t have to spend 5 minutes at every station asking people to move down the carriage to fit on the train and we might be on time!

Would you actually want to travel on a 12 carriage train where the only member of staff on board is the driver; what if something happened to someone whilst moving or the train stops at a curved platform and the driver cannot see the rear doors and just has to assume that no one is using them; what if someone gets trapped? Whilst I know that the industrial action can be annoying; the union (which is the staff that work for the company assisted by a few who co-ordinate the members) is fused about the safety of passengers traveling on the trains.

Compensation is never excessive on the trains so the least the company who let passengers down can do is to make it a seem less process. In stead they deliberately make claiming successfully difficult. Is that an honest way to do business….

Daniel says:
31 July 2018

Northern seems to love running trains 29 minutes late; the conductor on the train then announces that if the delay causes you to arrive at your destination 30+ minutes late, you can apply for delay repay.

Maybe if they reverted to being all-stoppers or run a ‘skip-stop-skip-stop’ service on sections of line not used (very often or at all) by other TOCs, they wouldn’t have ‘express’ services sitting outside each station on the route for a few minutes or waiting for a train that terminated at a through platform to start its next journey. Greater turnaround time is required to reduce the ‘knock on effect’ that short delays seem to have.

Employing a sufficient number of drivers including a sufficient number to use as relief staff covering holidays and sickness would reduce the cancellations due to ‘a shortage of train drivers’ that we experience so often.

Generally, I find the staff that work for the company (and others which I travel with) very helpful; there needs to be more time left between an inbound train arriving at the terminus and the outbound train leaving to ensure that one delay doesn’t cause chaos everywhere else on the network.

Mel McDonald says:
31 July 2018

Although I live in Scotland I use Northern Rail several times a week. For a while I thought they were called Northern Rail apologises…….. because that’s how every station announcement starts – the timetable changes were a disaster, but even before that it was either broken down trains or lack of drivers that caused cancellations. Northern make ScotRail look great by comparison. I don’t know why they get away with this appalling service to be honest – not enough staff and decrepit stock – the carriages are awful. I’m old enough to remember British Rail, but honestly I’m coming around to the idea that a nationalised railway couldn’t be any worse!!!

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Daniel says:
31 July 2018

Most of the announcements start “We are sorry to announce that the xx:xx Northern service to yy will be delayed by (some large number) minutes/cancelled. This is due to a shortage of drivers/more trains than usual needing repairs/a member of the train crew being unavailable (or more recently ‘a decision made by the train operating company’). Northern apologies for this late running and the inconvenience caused”
Another regular is “We are sorry to announce that the xx:xx Northern service to yy will be formed of 1/2 carriages instead of 3/4 today. This is due to a shortage of train drivers. Northern apologises for the short formation of this service and any inconvenience caused”

I do feel sorry for the automatic lady who makes the announcements; it must be tiring just announcing all of the delays/cancellations/short formations even at the smaller stations never mind the larger ones!

Last year we were offered compensation for the unreliability for southern Trains. But however time I entered the details it was impossible to claim a refund on my season ticket. Compensation was a Government fraud.

We invented the railways, we trained and installed the main railway system in India 200 years ago, although they’re a tad overcrowded they run efficiently because they haven’t tried to fix a system that wasn’t broken? What is needed in the UK is a trained management that can organise a p### up in a brewery, because those that are there can’t? Call in the Indian Railways to retrain our incompetent lot in how to do it?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

200 years ago was in 1818. We barely had railways in the UK then.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

“India’s first railway proposals were made in Madras in 1832.[1] The Red Hill Railway, the country’s first train, ran from Red Hills to Chintadripet bridge in Madras in 1837. It was hauled by a rotary steam-engine locomotive manufactured by William Avery. Built by Arthur Cotton, the railway was primarily used to transport granite stone for road-building work in Madras” Wikipedia

The first passenger service 1853.

My dilemma isn’t new in fact it dates back somewhat. But hear me out. In 1988 I caught a train with my bicycle from Bournemouth to Avonmouth for a planned bicycle tour of Central Wales for twelve days.. The month was May.

At the end of my tour I spent the night at Slimbridge YHA – the following day A simple distance of 36 miles to Temple Meads rail station at Bristol.

Upon my arrival at Bristol I made my way to the platform along with two American Cyclists (en route to Heathrow). As we attempted to put our cycles on the train we were told by a very officious guard that cycles were no longer accepted on trains.

I explained my predicament that I was to be at work in the morning as a Firefighter in the Dorset Fire Brigade in Bournemouth. I was instructed “Well you’d better get on your bike and f*****g start riding now. The two Americans were told the same but their plane was some six hours later.
I cycled to work 89 miles arriving at work at 08:25 the following morning absolutely shattered.
Although I wrote to the railway company at the time all I got was a complimentary ticket equivilent to to the fare I was unable to use.

I recently (last September) for the first time since 1988 travelled to Preston for a Golden Wedding Anniversary. After what had happened before I did not take my bicycle, thankfully.
The return journey was fraught with difficulties the connecting train at Wolverhampton had no facilities for cycles and I was forced to stand until Reading (I am now disabled).

Travel by rail again – no way it always seems to be a nightmare.

Compensation should be paid for cancelled services or inadequate alternative services. The main problem for commuters is that the Train journey isn’t always the last journey as instead it forms a link to other services. For example, a flight for a holiday, a bus to complete the journey to work. So if you miss a train or a train is cancelled then you miss that next connection too. So in my view the compensation shouldn’t just cover the cost of the train journey but also that other part of your commute that you have missed and if it’s a holiday the train company should cover this too as, I have yet to come across any insurance cover for a holiday if it is cancelled at the last minute through no fault of your own.

We need to turn the payment process around. The train operating companies know that the passengers have already paid and might be disinclined to claim compensation so they do not act diligently to avoid delays and disruption. If payment was not collected until the end of a journey at the exit barriers they would have more of an incentive to ensure a reliable and punctual journey. Some companies are better than others so they could be given permission to charge in advance of travel.

I like the idea of paying at the end of a journey as an incentive to the company, but suspect it would lead to more fare evasion. Stations round here including the one in the nearest city centre do not have barriers.

Virgin Trains owes me £10 + something towards an hour long phone call. I have gone thro’ all the correct procedures, but they either don’t reply or refuse to pay £10, (TEN POUNDS!!!!). I tried to use Transport Focus, who said “We can’t force Virgin Trains to pay you”. They suggest I use a solicitor, (LUDICROUS), or my MP. I think my MP has enough on her plate without this. I can’t believe it!! I shall pursue it for ever. It’s the principle, and the meanness. It just beggars belief!!