/ 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?


It should only be a question of entering your name and details, The ticket number, the train scheduled departure date and time, the station boarded, Your intended station of disembarkation. Compensation should then be automatic.

If you don’t have internet access, then presenting the ticket at a booking office (If you can find one open), should secure the same effect.

For regular claims, then you should be able to log in to retrieve your details, see your claims history and make your latest claim.

Yes, amount of delay should be taken into account (relative to the length of the journey) and so should failure to get you to your destination.

Time to compensate for delays over 15 minutes.

Southern do compensate for journeys over 15 mins late, they have brackets, 15-29, 30 to 59 etc

All the ranting about re-nationalising the railways will make no difference to commuters travelling experiences, if anything they will get worse. The problem is caused mainly by the rush hour traffic. You can’t get a quart into a pint glass, no matter how hard you try, and as for getting compensation, have you tried getting money back from the HMRC? I’ve been trying to get an overpayment back for a year, it is now between two departments who refer me back to the other when I call them, and that means about fifteen minutes of getting a three minute endless loop “music” tape blasting down your ear, and as for trying them online……

My delay of over an hour was due to a strike by SW Trains on a Saturday. When I went to my home (GWR) station to buy my ticket the previous Thursday I was told there would not be a strike. Turned up at 6.30 am on Saturday to be told there was now a strike, by the other train company. I had no other way of travelling and it was for a meeting of an organisation for which I volunteer, not a paid job. Bus replacement time was changed while I was en route to the station where I normally change trains. Eventually arrived at destination 1 hr 25 minutes late. meeting had to wait for me to make it quorate. Compensation denied because ‘we do not pay out for strike action’. Glad I don’t have to travel regularly for work, it must be Hell for regular commuters!

I wholly disagree. In my experience most problems have been caused by the fragmentation of services and train companies passing the buck when things go wrong. One (of many) examples: a journey involved travelling by three different companies on a pre-booked ticket. First operator cancelled scheduled train because of lack of drivers. Second company then refused to accept my ticket because I was travelling on a later train. Guard very threatening, and eventually I had to pay excess. Can you explain to me why it was my fault that the first company cancelled and I couldn’t catch the booked train run by the second company?

I welcome anything that makes the delay-repay system easier to use and standardises the process across the railway system with consistent rules. I am pleased though that it will still require a claim and not be automated.

I am surprised that Which? keeps pressing for automated compensation since it is not always necessary and can only add to train companies’ operating costs and therefore increase unregulated fares – the more so if increases in regulated fares [which generate the largest number of compensation claims] are capped and cannot absorb the impact of additional compensation; the burden would transfer to the unregulated segment where fare increases would largely hurt the occasional and off-peak passengers most of whom are not on the train to get to paid employment. I would appreciate a response from Which? on this point.

Because of the gaps in the timetable and the running of the trains I am frequently on a train that is scheduled to arrive at my destination well before I actually need to be there. If there is a delay of less than an hour it is usually of no consequence to me and I can enjoy the comfort and facilities of the train while it waits for the line to clear. In such circumstances I have no wish to claim any compensation. Even where that is not the case, if I have suffered no particular inconvenience I would not wish to claim compensation.

Claims on paper will still be required for the large number of passengers who are not able to claim on-line; transferring the claims from those who can make them on-line to a computerised process should enable paper claims to be handled faster and more reliably; in fact, I would say that must be a mandatory outcome imposed on the train operating companies.

There would also need to be a non-automated claims process, whether on-line or on paper, if automated compensation were introduced since many tickets are bought at ticket offices or from ticket machines where there is no record of the purchaser, as well as from independent websites where any personal details should not be transferable to the train company.

I consider compensation should be paid for actual loss, not automatically. How many of those claiming compensation will compensate their employer (automatically perhaps?) for being late for work? I left home at an appropriate time to arrive at work on time or earlier, giving thought to likely traffic congestion that might cause delays. I still got caught out by unusual traffic – road works, accident or just sheer volume. I knew what to expect and planned for it as well as I could. Those on public road transport were just as affected but presumably were not compensated. What is so special about rail commuters? Their sheer numbers contribute to the problem, and they know that.

I am presently being compensated by a water company because they turned off my water without informing me in advance, despite it being a planned repair. I suffered no loss, just minor inconvenience. That cost will be added to everyone else’s bills. We seem unable, or are persuaded we should be unable, to tolerate any inconvenience without being paid off. What we don’t realise is we are just paying ourselves effectively, in higher chargers. I’d prefer to see other measures taken to improve performance that don’t drain an organisation of the funds it needs to improve.

I think the biggest inconvenience for rail travellers is the trains that do not turn up at all, having been cancelled or terminated before reaching your station. There is no compensation for that although the passengers on board a prematurely terminated train might be eligible for compensation if their journey time exceeds the delay parameters.

Why should we tolerate inconvenience when it is not our fault? It is the offhand manner in which my complaint was dealt with which most annoyed me.

It could well be argued that a strike is not the train company’s fault either. They obviously managed to provide some buses at short notice, albeit not a satisfactory service in your case. I hope the train company was not rude when it declined your request for compensation but it had little option other than to do so. The trade unions seek to use the public’s inconvenience and annoyance to put pressure on the employers. If compensation were paid every time where would it end? And where would the money come from?

It took me 5 months to get a refund where I had been sold the wrong ticket. The Virgin Trains ticket issuing part of the website wasn’t working. and I had to go through Transport Focus and The Citizens’ Advice Bureaux to get it. Unbelievable! Virgin Trains so called Passenger Resolutions just didn’t respond.

It’s about time that Chris Grayling gets sacked from his position as he has failed time and time again to fix this mess of private franchises.
The whole rail system needs to go back into public ownership, and do away with foreign-owned franchises taking tax-payers money from our railways.

At present the government gets billions of pounds in premium payments from most of the franchises. This provides money for investment in the track and signalling [by nationalised Network Rail] and enables those parts of the rural network that cannot pay their way under any form of normal management to operate as a public service obligation. Where would this money come from in a nationalised future given that whenever the state has taken control of failed franchises it has never managed to generate the same revenue. It will be interesting to see if it can do any better for the third time around on the East Coast route. And it was the Department for Transport that was largely responsible for that franchise getting into a mess.

A big THANK YOU to the “Which?” people for standing up on behalf of us passengers !!!

Radmila Herrmann ( a Passenger)

great idea lets do the same for all airlines .P S Lets re-nationalise the railways the buses the water the post office & all energy.

All that the rail companies have to do is announce something like this: “Ladies and gentlemen, we apologise for the delay. You are now due to compensation. Please keep your ticket and either go online to ……….., or speak to a member of staff to obtain compensation” SIMPLES!!

Of course easier compensation will make the process slightly less painful, but what people want is for the trains to run on time. I agree with Jim Hawkins that nationalisation is more likely to make things worse. As someone who worked for a department of British Rail I can testify that the dead hand of bureaucracy smothers initiative, enterprise and any desire for improvement as well as making expensive mistakes.

Much more preferable would be an efficient railway system which runs on time, with decent rolling stock . If the companies have to pay out heavy compensation they will just put up the prices even higher to compensate themselves for the outlay.

Decent rolling stock [brand new or refurbished to an equivalent standard] has been rolling in for some time now and is pouring out of the factories. But much of it is being stored in sidings because of serious delays and cost over-runs by Network Rail in electrifying or upgrading routes. A long cascade of rolling stock displacing the oldest or most worn out has been held up for some time now and a mere trickle is going into service week by week.

I don’t need urging to claim compensation for anything. We claimed in September from Virgin and Northern for delay on Virgin, and cancelled service on Northern. Both paid up ok, perhaps we were lucky, but many people struggle to get compensation. It does need proper regulation.

I’ve been trying to claim for delay repay since June! LNER apparently want people to claim by text. I am not able to do so. And the delays, on 2 consecutive nights, created additional costs for me.

I was recently delayed by over an hour because of a strike on SW trains. The timing of the replacement bus was changed between boarding my train at my home station and getting off at the station where I would have normally changed trains. When I tried to gain compensation online I encountered difficulties, so rang up. The person answering asked the name of the staff member who gave me the original information! He then said my claim was invalid because 2 different train companies were involved. After 8 and a half minutes, he said no compensation is paid for delays caused by strikes. I was almost incaescent with annoyance by then and said I would take the matter further. (But where?) The sooner the railways are renationalised the better.

The only problem that I can see with this is that the more compensation is paid out the greater the fare hikes will be. So, the Transport department needs to ensure that does not happen. This will be great for well connected commuters with smart phones and digital apps. But, what of those of us who not in that category, do not have smart phones and some, indeed, who do not even have access to a computer? Will this also benefit them. I do hope so, because I am more than a bit fed up with the electronics brigade who want everything at the touch of a button whilst they are sipping their cappuccinos as they run for yet another deadline or other. Some of these wonderful rules that would help us more ordinary folk would be such a good thing!?!

Simon says:
2 October 2018

This is ok but it misses the point. We want / need a train system that we can rely on to get into work on time and in a reasonable frame of mind to ensure that we contribute to the economy. I realise that issues do occur but to my mond a compensation culture hides the real problem.

One train company I use regularly makes it as difficult as possible to claim refunds. The claim forms, which used to be on a rack alongside timetables, can now only be obtained from the ticket office – which is only open during peak periods. You can write to request a claim form, or claim online. But many people don’t want the hassle of writing a letter, or don’t have online access – which suits the company perfectly, of course.

What really the problem is that the Train Operastors don’t want to part with our money! They should be more interested in our safety and provide seating, i.e. more rolling stock. At the moment they are playing with passengers’ lives by NOT providing proper safety to those passengers having to stand on trains.

The main problem is thqat Train Operators don’t want to part with our money. They are at present playing with passengers’ lives by NOT providing proper safety on trains, i.e. by not providing seating as standing passengers could be put at risk standing and the train had to brake a bit harder than usual.

I don`t use the trains regularly, but experience great difficulty trying to claim compensation for late or missed trains. The rail companies deliberately make it difficult to claim because it affects their profits.
Another area of complaint which is ignored is the regular “bus replacement ” service at the weekends to London. This happens nearly every weekend from East Anglia, and a one hour journey can turn into two hours, but we are still charged the full train price with no mention of compensation. This needs to be included in the legislation.

There should be statutory compensation for train delays in the same way as for airline delays under EU261/2004. And like EU261/2004, it should be related to the scheduled length of the journey. For example, if a journey is scheduled for to take only 10 minutes, then a delay threshold of 30 minutes is disproportionately high. Perhaps compensation should become due when the delay is at least 50% of the scheduled journey time. The compensation amount should depend only on the length of the delay, not on the fare paid, as with airlines.