/ Travel & Leisure

Government announces ‘one-click’ rail compensation

Today, the government has announced that it will roll out ‘one-click’ compensation across the rail network. It’s a welcome step forward, but we’re calling for more.

Three years ago, we submitted a super-complaint to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), focusing on the difficulties that people face in getting compensation from train companies.

Our research found that most passengers who were eligible to claim compensation didn’t do so. Too many people were unaware of their rights or found the entire process too lengthy and complex.

Nearly three years on, figures show that the number of passengers claiming compensation for delays and cancellations is still unacceptably low. Only 39% of those who are eligible to claim for a delay of 30 minutes or more actually do, up only 4% from two years ago.

What’s more, just 28% of eligible passengers were even aware that they could make a claim in the first place.

We’ve heard from thousands of passengers who have told us about their train pain and their stories clearly demonstrate why trust in the sector remains chronically low.

Obstacles to compensation

From being blocked on social media for complaining to their train company, being reported for fraud after making multiple claims, and having to navigate the complex and inconsistent claims process, passengers are too often faced with unnecessary obstacles when they try to make a claim.

After months of delays and cancellations across the network, it is clear that more needs to be done to make claiming easier and to help passengers get the compensation that they are owed.

While this announcement from the government doesn’t go all the way to ensuring that the compensation system is fully automated, it is an important step in making the process simpler, more accessible and less confusing for passengers.

Some train companies, such as Northern and Virgin, already offer ‘one-click’ compensation to certain passengers and it’s about time the rest of the network caught up. All train companies should ensure that passengers are notified when they are eligible to claim for a delayed or cancelled service.

Fundamental changes

Last month, the government announced that it will launch a wide-ranging review of the sector looking at everything from franchising to passenger experience and customer service. An ombudsman to deal with complaints is also due next month.

Clearly fundamental changes are needed to get rail back on track, but as a bare minimum the government must introduce automatic compensation for delays and cancellations for passengers suffering from unreliable services.

Have you tried to claim compensation? Would a simplified claims process help you get the money back you’re entitled to?


Train companies, especially GET, need to make their complaints pro endure more accessible: there are far too many boxes to fill in, and replies – if you get one – are irrelevant to the complaint.

This is all fine and good but there are still a number of people who are not connected to the internet or possess a smart phone. This is particularly true of the older generation and so what are they supposed to do?

I was told by a senior manager at one train company that they will let trains overtake other trains- to minimise the compensation-so if you were already going to be on a train where compensation applies- you will get later and later and later- as other trains are allowed to go ahead so that compensation is not payable- I think how long you have been delayed should be taken in to account

The onus should be on the train operating company to offer the compensation rather than the passenger to claim it. The train company must be handing out claim forms to every customer on a late train, or at the barrier.

David Wells says:
1 October 2018

This is absolutely the case! I could not agree more.

I travel free in London on a 60+ travel card. I am not able to claim compensation when using this. Surely the compensation is for the time lost so why not?

Colin Miell says:
2 October 2018

I also travel for free in London with a Freedom Pass. I still work part time, and am also regularly delayed and inconvenienced. Time is money, so why can’t we claim compensation ??? As John so rightly says, delay repay compensation is primarily given in respect of time lost – money lost is a secondary consideration.

I suppose since you have not paid [directly] for your Freedom Card they cannot reimburse you through the payment process but they could upgrade your journey experiences by giving you the exclusive use of the upper saloon on scenic bus routes or an armchair seat in the rear cab of a Tube train with coffee and croissants.

I claim whatever. And frequently write to the train company to tell them my full views. Like the time the train broke down at Diss and we had to walk over the old stone stairs with heavy cases. Abellio Greater Anglia was less than helpful but I did eventually get my refund.

The concrete stairs at Diss connecting the two platforms are only about forty years old but are extremely hard to use because of the depth between the treads and their gradient. They were erected in place of a Victorian structure when the railway was electrified and the footbridge had to clear the overhead power lines, so there are a lot of steps.

Given the surge in the number of users of Diss station now as a railhead for most of South Norfolk it is high time that lifts were installed to make use of the footbridge easier. A ticket machine and a disabled access ramp were not provided at the Norwich platform until about 2010. Until then that platform was unusable by disabled passengers.

Peter King says:
1 October 2018

Late train rail fare compensation: I was unaware that rail companies were liable to provide compensation for late trains until a couple of months ago, travelling home from London on Southern Rail, arrival home being 40 minutes or so later than scheduled. The very kind guard announced over the tannoy (for want of a better word) that we were more than 30 minutes late and that we were therefore due compensation. He then described how we should go about getting it. I followed his advice and although it took a few weeks to come through and it was a paltry amount compared to the cost of the journey, I did actually get a little compensation! There was no explanation from Southern Rail as to how the amount of compensation was calculated; maybe it was simply a low random number generator, but at least it was better than nothing! If it hadn’t been for the kind guard, I wouldn’t have even known about claiming compensation, not being a very regular train traveller. No wonder the train companies want to get rid of guards, evidently not just to fatten the pockets of their shareholders.

Southeastern will do anything to wriggle out of paying, and often simply never reply, or dispute legitimate claims. They accuse people of fraud, decline payments based on erroneous calculations and assumptions (eg refusing to admit that a delay on one leg of the journey means you missed a connection), and they make you fill in a lengthy and temperamental online form, attaching photographic evidence of your annual travel card every single time. For delay-repay, the threshold should be 15 minutes for ‘metro’ journeys. For my 40 minute two-leg journey, I still have to be delayed 30 mins or more to claim, and so I don’t get anything back at all for all the times I am 20-30 mins late. Southeastern get automatically compensated by Network Rail, to the tune of millions, and anything they can keep by declining delay repay payments goes straight into their pockets as profit. That can’t be right. The Government should get rid of such perverse incentives.

I gave up trying to claim delay repay because the amounts I was getting back were miniscule, and every claim was a battle. A lot of them were never replied to, and I don’t have the time to make my delay repay claims a full-time tracking job. I lose enough of my week already through the daily delays!

Improvements in regulation and delay-repay are very welcome, and needed. But it’s also the case that a bad TOC is a bad TOC – and persistent offenders, including Southeastern, should simply be banned from holding any future franchise. They can’t be trusted with delay repay or anything else.

Nigel Speight says:
1 October 2018

How about compensation for having to stand because of insufficient seats/carriages
That would sharpen their minds a bit

Andy says:
1 October 2018

if you want a seat reserve it. Terms and conditions of carriage are simply to travel nothing more, and I’m sorry if that sounds harsh but it’s the way the UK system operates for all services and it’s the way the UK public ‘like’ it done. In Europe inter city services insist on a seat reservation (which you pay for) and once the seats are sold out you have to try and book another train, commuter services like here are a free for all and just as overcrowded. In the UK people want to be able to walk up and get any train regardless so not getting a seat unless you reserve one is the price you pay for that I’m afraid. If we offered the same type of service it would be bedlam as there are simply too many people for the trains, especially at certain times of the day and night.

Peter Greenhalgh says:
1 October 2018

It’s a step forward. My concern is that the rail companies will fail to amend their awful management and end up paying so much compensation that they go under and we’ll have to bail them out. In an ideal world, no-one will receive compensation as the trains will all be on time.

Too little too late … renationalise now …. this is not working ….I’ve tried to book 5 first class return tickets from Exeter to Newquay …: price is £1562 that’s a months wage …..back to the drawing board

Seems odd. Anytime 1st class return, according to Trainline, is £117.40 1st class, £70.70 off peak. Or travel standard class for as little as £37.70 return.

It’s not compensation it’s ** a proper functioning, comfortable & affordable railway ** that’s needed , preferably nationalised. Peace & love from Jonty 👴 ✊🚂

Dave Walker says:
1 October 2018

The railway system should be back in public ownership, this privatisation pipe dream that the tories have is dead and gone, They have forgotten that the railways are a service to the people, which is a million miles away as it is aat the moment. Put it back in public hands and run as a business with the people in charge being made responsible. NOT AS IT USED TO BE. It’s about time this Government took responsibility and started to listen to people. All I hear at the moment is how much money is being pumped into the railways by the Government !!!!! Sorry, am I missing something, I thought it was privatised. It’s a shambles.

A large proportion of train delays are attributable to Network Rail which is a nationalised organisation. It is a subsidiary of the Department for Transport. So not much room for improvement by nationalisation there then. Next?

Performance is little different in terms of punctuality than when it was nationalised – but there are nearly 2.4 times as many passengers (customers?) on largely the same network. That seems a very creditable performance given all the constraints.

We can make life easier if working hours were staggered and people decided commuting, particularly long distances, was not the best way to spend their waking life. Working nearer home could lead to a pleasanter lifestyle.

Spare a thought for those who commute by road.

Really, we cannot go on for ever as we are. Some constructive changes have to take place.

Let’s not forget one-click compensation for suffering air-travellers too!

I don’t use the train as the train line to my village has been closed for years- many promises to reopen it but nothing happens. I’m better off on the overcrowded roads judging by the state of our train services.

I think one-click compensation is a great political balloon kicked into the air to divert attention from the woes of the Tory conference- pretty much like passing tips on to waiters. Who seriously expects the quick reimbursement scheme to work after so many other broken promises? The operators will manipulate the system to make sure payments are minimised. Trains won’t become more punctual because the knackered network hasn’t the capacity or the investment to deliver this. The answer is to bin HS2 and invest billions in the basic network throughout the country. In other words don’t celebrate easier compensation- target resolving the causes of delays.

Michael Wilson says:
1 October 2018

I made a claim for a cancellation involved 2 people and return journey! Train company only compensated 1 ticket one way and said had to claim for each leg. Did so in time frame and compensation response delayed to bring outside claim period then transferred to another agency to deal with. Never received full compensation!

Agree. Compensation should not have to be fought for, but be acted upon automatically. Not only should this apply to train travel, but also air travel. This would place the onus on the airlines to rightly compensate their travellers.

penny says:
1 October 2018

What’s initially outrageous about all this is that there are just so many people finding the need to seek compensation in the first place! 21st century technology maybe is not what it’s supposed to be and the trains aren’t being managed properly either. People seeking compensation because it costs so much in the first instance is probably one of the prime reasons why. I don’t travel much on the trains but sympathise with those who do.

Christopher Richardson says:
1 October 2018

I already make a point of claiming compensation if my train is delayed. An easier way of claiming will be welcome, but I won’t claim more as a result.

Simon says:
1 October 2018

I already use South Western Railway’s DelayRepay process which is much better than the previous system. I can log in and all my details are there. I just need to add the journey details. However with our proper cross-reference to me actually bing on the delayed train the system can easily be taken advantage of with websites like RecentTrainTimes giving access to all the delay information.