Recently, Huw Merriman MP called for legislation to introduce auto-comp for delayed rail and air passengers. After a poor experience trying to use the current delay repay system, guest Matt Woosnam is right behind it…
It is no secret that claiming on Delay Repay from Train Operating Companies (TOCs) is more challenging than it needs to be – or than it should be.
Many people are unaware of the existence of ‘Delay Repay’ (a national scheme train companies use to compensate passengers for delays) – and for those who are, many simply don’t want to put the effort in to apply.
How does delay repay work?
Claiming through Delay Repay involves finding out the exact time your train was due in, and completing a captcha to prove you are not a robot. But people don’t have the time or the inclination to complete boring, long-winded forms.
I am not usually one of those people, but when I experienced a delay due to my train being cancelled on Chiltern Railways, I looked to find a way of submitting a claim and very nearly decided against it.
Firstly, I found no obvious page for claiming for a delay on the Chiltern Railways website. It is under ‘compensation’ – a little confusing, albeit accurate. The online form redirects you to a contact us page. Upon scouring the form, I finally came to instructions on how to submit a claim if you are delayed by 30 minutes or more:
‘If you are delayed on a Chiltern Railways journey and the cause of the delay was within the railway industry control you can claim compensation. You must make a claim within 28 days of travel. You can claim this by filling in the form at the bottom of this page and attaching a photo of your ticket, cut in half diagonally.’
Too many barriers to claim
There are several issues with this requirement. Firstly, unless you are travelling to a station without ticket barriers, it is going to be swallowed by the barrier at your destination. If you aren’t aware of the requirement to have the ticket, how can you submit it once it has gone?
The other issue is the bizarre request to cut the ticket in half diagonally. Quite why this is necessary is beyond me. I have experience of completing these delay forms, but was unaware of this, and no longer had my ticket for the reason above.
There was also no staff member on the gate at Marylebone, where the train terminated, so I had no way of going through the barriers while keeping my ticket. As it turned out I submitted the photo of my ticket I had taken, which happened to be accepted. But even then, I had calculated my delay incorrectly and fell just short of the 30 minute delay period – so after all of that my claim was declined.
It’s time to introduce auto-compensation
The process with many Train Operating Companies (TOCs) to claim delay repay requires effort which most people see as not worth their time for what can be as little as 50p or £1. In my mind, automatic delay repay should be introduced for delays of 15 minutes or more, regardless of what length a passenger’s journey is.
This is a subject that was raised here on Which? Convo very recently by MP Huw Merriman who has proposed for legislation to introduce auto-comp on rail and air passengers. Here he explains how it would work:
“This Bill would ensure that passengers on trains, flights and other domestic transport systems, have their bank accounts automatically credited with the compensation owed to them without first having to work out what their rights are or try and apply for it.”
This would be a far simpler process, and it also puts the onus on the TOCs to implement it. After all, they receive the money from Network Rail if it isn’t their fault, so at the moment they stand to profit from making it as difficult and complicated as possible.
What’s your experience of delay repay – have you ever had success using the system or have you avoided it because it’s too long and complicated? Some train companies already offer automatic compensation, is yours one of them? Would you like to see auto-compensation introduced across all train companies?
This is a guest contribution from Matt Woosnam. All views expressed here are Matt’s own and not necessarily also shared by Which?.
We contacted Chiltern Railways for a response to Matt’s experience. A spokesperson for Chiltern Railways said:
‘We are disappointed that Mr Woosnam has found our Delay Compensation process to be more cumbersome than he would like.
‘As one of the most punctual train operators in the country, the instances when customers who travel with Chiltern Railways are delayed long enough to need to claim for Delay Compensation are relatively few. However when customers are delayed, we actively encourage them to apply for Delay Compensation and aim to make the process as straight forward as possible, while also minimising the likelihood of fraudulent claims being made.
‘We have recently relaunched our website – there is a very prominent option on the home page that states ‘Claim Compensation’ which provides guidance on the Delay Compensation process.
‘We aim to publicise the existence of our Delay Compensation scheme across our network. Posters are displayed at all of our staffed stations, our website has prominent information and all journey specific travel alerts contain specific reminders that claims may be made. All staffed stations have Compensation Claim Forms on prominent display and station and on-board staff are encouraged to remind customers of the Delay Compensation scheme when felt appropriate. We also make automated announcements at our stations should instances of disruption be particularly severe.
‘We know that the positive promotion of our Delay Compensation scheme is encouraging more eligible customers to submit applications than has previously been the case.
‘To make a valid claim, we do require a copy of the customer’s ticket. For claims submitted electronically, we ask that tickets are cut in two before being imaged. These requirements are for audit and fraud prevention purposes. Staff will always be available (in person or via a Help Point) to help customers through the barriers in the event that they need to keep their train ticket.
‘We believe that our claim process is simple and transparent. We do not agree that it is a time consuming process. An application for Delay Compensation will typically take less than two or three minutes. The information requested is simply to ensure that we have enough information for us to validate and process a claim. There is no requirement for a customer to calculate their delay, or to say what time they arrived at their destination, as we do that as part of our claim validation process and will contact the customer in case of query.
‘Chiltern Railways consistently respond to all Delay Compensation requests within 10 working days and we aim to ensure that customers receive the compensation to which they are entitled as quickly as possible.’