/ Travel & Leisure

Update: Win! New rail passenger rights announced

Rail passengers

The 1 October marks the first anniversary of the Consumer Rights Act coming into force in most sectors. Most sectors, but not all: rail, air and sea travel were excluded from the Act. That is until now…

Following some extensive Which? campaigning we saw a change of heart from the Government with an extension of the Consumer Rights Act to also include the rail sector. On 1 October air, sea and rail travel sectors will have to fully comply with the Act.

Update: 1 October 2016, Consumer Rights Act comes into force for all travel sectors

It’s finally here, the Consumer Rights Act is now in force for rail, air and maritime travel.

Following Which? campaigning you now have new consumer rights to cover you when you travel. Your rights are now far stronger and standardised when it comes to claiming compensation for poor service and disruption. Importantly, all rail passengers could now be eligible for compensation if they feel the service they have received falls way below the standard expected.

If your service hasn’t been delivered with reasonable care and skill you may be able to claim compensation. Our free tool can help you claim compensation for a train, coach or ferry journey that’s been provided without reasonable care and skill.

We’ll now be keeping a close eye on train companies and looking at taking further action to test out your new rights if train companies are found to be letting you down.

Second rate rights for rail passengers

The Government was seeking to delay new rights for rail passengers until October 2017. During the Consumer Rights Act’s passage through Parliament, the Government made it clear that it wanted to permanently exclude passengers from some of the rights available under the new legislation.

We were dismayed that passengers were being put so firmly at the back of the queue.

Then in April this year, we saw the first softening in the Government’s position with the lifting of the exclusion for air and sea travel. Rights in these sectors are due to come into effect from the 1 October this year.

But there was a sting in the tail – while the Government agreed the legislation should eventually come into effect for the rail sector, it still wanted to delay this until October 2017.

We believe this would have been a mistake, leaving millions of suffering rail passengers and the Government wasn’t putting passengers first.

Rail campaign

As you can expect, we collected your stories and made our views known to Ministers and officials at the Department of Transport, and raised our concerns in Parliament.

Thanks to your support, the near 45,000 people who’ve so far backed our campaign to Make Rail Refunds Easier, and the many MPs and Peers who helped champion the cause, the Government has changed its mind, again.

On 1 October the rail sector will now have to fully comply with the Consumer Rights Act.

The Government wrote to MPs and Peers, and the Transport Select Committee (PDF) to announce they had withdrawn the regulations that were due to be voted on next week that would have delayed the implementation of the Consumer Rights Act for rail for another year.

Rail Minister, Paul Maynard, said passengers who are unhappy with their compensation, which currently varies between operators, will be able to pursue their claim through the courts if they fail to resolve the issue with the train company.

This is good news for rail passengers. In a little over three weeks all rail passengers will be entitled to have their compensation paid within 14 days. Compensation will be issued by the same method the passenger paid with, rather than with vouchers that some train companies currently use.

Passengers will also be entitled to payment for additional consequential losses, such as missed connections, and will be able to claim for any length of delay.

Consumer Rights for rail

So, we want to hear from you how will the change to rail passenger rights affect you? Have you any rail travel horror stories to share with us?

*We’ll be at Birmingham New Street station on Sunday 2nd October from 1pm and Monday 3rd October between 7.30-10am. Come and have a chat with us about your new rail rights and share your train horror stories.

Mark Grainger says:
8 September 2016

The whole rail network system is confusing to use, with a plethora of overpriced options and poor service. The sooner the whole of the UK rail network is brought under 1 nationalised control the better.

I sometimes wonder what a new nationalised [passenger] railway system would look like. Presumably it would only cover England since Wales and Scotland have their own arrangements under devolution. Northern Ireland Railways are state run already. In England, a number of conurbations and city regions are acquiring public transport commissioning powers under devolution and will not want to see them disappear into a state monopoly. Greater London is already largely under public control through Transport for London which is progressively reaching out to the extremities of the metropolitan area. This leaves what used to be called inter-city and provincial routes plus the massive commuter-oriented systems encircling Greater London. For these the Department for Transport specifies, directs and controls almost everything that goes on except the personnel and maintenance functions. Network Rail is already a nationalised operation but, counter to the tendency towards consolidation, it is seeing how it can split itself into geographical route sections in order to provide a more responsive and flexible service. It’s a mess and the franchising system doesn’t work properly, but amalgamating some of the current problem cases isn’t an outcome I would wish for. The trade unions want full nationalisation, of course, so they can negotiate nation-wide pay and conditions and regain their power to press their cause on a national basis.

Whilst it’s good to see the result, I seem to think allowing very short delays to be compensated may be a bit much particularly if the delay is only by a minute or two (which can happen quite easily particularly if it’s disabled passenger assistance which does take time)

I find N. Rail complaints dept. useless! I complained on14/7/16. I heard nothing. I enquired as to whether they had received it and had an acknowledgement, but saying they had a huge backlog of complaints. So to date I’ve had no response or solution (or not) to my query/complaint. I FEEL I am being ignored. Northern Rail’s coping mechanism dealing with complaints is pitiful; not fit for purpose.

Is their service so BAD they can’t cope with all the complaints? It certainly looks that way!

Northern Rail might be one of the operators that the ORR found to be seriously under-performing in its customer service.

I have a Season Ticket with Great western and so I have to wait until the end of the year to see what their performance has been as far as any compensation is concerned.
I renew my ticket at the end of December and i never know until the last moment what the price is going to be. Great Western are real real nightmare their staff are very unhelpful , the trains are overcrowded tickets very expensive and this year I was told two different prices and I was forced to pay nearly £300.00 than i was expecting to pay for my season ticket. Ghastly

I suppose all you can work on is the advertised price for a season ticket and treat any reduction attributable to poor performance and reliability as a “bonus”. I put that in quotes because you would probably prefer the advertised service to a price cut that is likely not to be commensurate with the deficiencies.

What happens to people who retire or relocate and no longer need a season ticket renewal? How do they get compensated for any poor service they have experienced during their final year?

G. Turi says:
8 September 2016

as a matter of fact my son and I took a Great Northern train journey from Palmers Green Station to Essex Road station, Islington yesterday (07/09/2016), leaving at 18:00 and returning at 22:00. It was beset by persistent and prolonged delays on both legs of the journey (over 30 min), before departure and in-transit, with no station staff in sight to give advice or assistance. A very unpleasant and expensive experience. Shabby, poorly lit stations and rolling stock. Disgusting.

I have travelled on that route many times G. Turi but not for a long time. I am surprised that it is still in such a poor condition. It is operated by Govia Thameslink Railway [cf. Southern].

Essex Road used to be the most ghostly station on the line when it was part of the London Underground system [Northern City branch] . It was built for full-size trains and was operated by the Metropolitan Railway originally. As the tiny tube trains used later in its life entered the station section the platform lights dimmed and they flickered as the doors slid open and closed; I was sometimes the only person getting off and entering the lift at Essex Road even at 0830!

The full-sized trains now used by Great Northern are forty years old but not due to be replaced until 2018. Your train journey should have taken about fifteen minutes. If you experienced thirty minute delays over and above the fifteen minute journey time [from the time the next timetabled train following your arrival on the platform was due to depart] you should certainly use the Delay Repay compensation scheme. You can do it on-line within 28 days.

I just knew someone would come up with a long delay on a short route!

I never travel by rail if I can possibly avoid it . The only exception would be Eurostar to Paris or Brussels . Rail travel in the UK is too inconvenient , uncomfortable and expensive , and always has been ; whether Nationalised , when it was run for the benefit of the staff ( like the NHS is now ) or Privatised , when run for the benefit of the shareholders , rail travel is a very poor option in my view . The government allowed Dr Beeching to destroy the network , often using false statistics and it has never recovered . Even then the service was filthy and the staff rude and no help . The only enjoyable train journey I have ever had was an overnight sleeper from Paris to Cannes on SNCF in the 1980s . If J . Corbin wants to look like a tramp sitting on the floor in a vain attempt to pretend to improve things , good luck to him ; he appears as the mischievous insincere fool he is . The only justification for British rail travel is ferrying commuters into London , which it is hopeless at achieving , or moving large quantities of bulk goods inter-city to get them off the overcrowded roads ; unfortunately no-one has been motivated to switch on their brain and get this done . So for me , Rail travel can go hang ; I shall never use it if at all possible .

the prices in uk are a rip off &services second rate

Olga sleigh says:
9 September 2016

Prices for such a poorly service are extremely high- trains are dirty, often broken down or cancelled. It’s a joke to claim compensation as GWR is telling us that a season ticket holders are not entitled for compensation. Millions passengers are suffering because there is no other option available. Very sad that such a great country had such a third world train service.

Louise says:
10 September 2016

I have sent in 5 delay repay forms to Southern 2 paper and 3 electronic and I know I included all the requried information and copy tickets, you cannot submit an electronic claim without filling in the form and uploaded your ticket. I have had the same ridiculous letter from Southern saying they cannot process my claims as I did not put in the date of travel, or send in my ticket. I have sent them copies of the original claims and tickets and now they say I am out of time. Basically they are not paying any delay repay claims now. I have complained to London Travel Watch but they say they have no power to make southern pay.

I think I am right in saying that Network Rail (a public owned company basically tax payers i.e. me and you) have to compensate rail companies if their trains are delayed for more than 5 minutes. So I stand on a platform having paid more money than last year for my ticket waiting for a train that is cancelled, I get no compensation but I pay the train company for their delay, while they pay dividends to their shareholders and bonuses to their managers.

all the rail companies will need to do is make the published journey times longer than they need to be. Then fewer trains will be “late”

Will the CRA cover buses too?

And what does this mean for airlines – will be able to claim for delays with a delay less than the 3 hours? And presumably and poor service will be covered too?

This is good news but as you acknowledge much more is needed. Still, I have shared this on twitter and facebook and will be including a link in my next blog post on aspiblog.wordpress.com

The tax payer has been consistently screwed over since rail privatisation. As example Southern Rail had a £20 million subsidy yet declared £100 profit. Renationalise the lot now and end this abuse.

Southern Rail did not make a £100 M profit (at least, I think that is what you meant to say). Go Ahead Group is a UK company that made the profit of £100 million. They have a number of transport businesses, including a part share in Southern. Southern is run by Govia, a joint enterprise between Go Ahead (65%) and French comany Keolis (35%). £100 million was not Southern’s profit. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go-Ahead_Group

It looks like we shall have an opportunity to vote for renationalisation of the railways in due course, Tony.
This happened some years ago but, once elected, the government refused to honour their pledge. Of course, the current politicians might be more trustworthy. Half the population never goes near a train so the decision would be in the wrong hands.

My suggestion to the debate:
There’s no need to skim off profits from goods and services that once belonged to the public regardless whether it’s water, electricity, railway, mail, health service etc.
We’re increasingly at the mercy of big corporations whose interest first and foremost is the maximisation of shareholeders profits with little reference to the wellbeing of the public and the environment unfortunately.
Politians render themselves increasingly meaning/powerless in this context.
If you’re interested in what it means for the NHS for example you should watch:
‘Sell off – the abolition of the NHS’.
It’s available online.
Quite relevant in the context of A&E departments currently closing down and the NHS being forced of selling their remaining assets.


Sadly, as with proposals for bringing back grammar schools, the clamour for nationalisation of various industries is based on a false view of a “golden age” that can be instantly resurrected.

Dear Peter,

This has nothing to do with bringing back ‘the good old times’ I personally have not even experienced, neither am I saying this can happen overnight!
It’s much more about developing a vision for a future world people want to live in where our current one has been corrupted and manipulated by neo liberalism exacerbating inequality and feeding directly into the effects of climate change.
Why shouldn’t we push for a democtractic, efficient and controllable form of renationalisation fit for the 21 century?
I guess for most people on this platform this discussion is probably leading too far but all these things have to be looked at in the context of our economic and financial system to understand what’s actually at stake.
I guess if you were on a zero hour contract completely at the mercy of your temporary employer you might look at the role of trade unions in a slightly different way.
By stating this I am not saying trade unions were always reasonable with their demands in the past but without them we’re clearly going back to the days of exploitation and sweatshops.

For those who are interested at looking a bit beyond the Southern railway discussion and what’s currently discussed behind closed doors please watch:
‘The trouble with ttip”.

Best Regards


I believe past experience is informative here. Nationalised industries have rarely been efficient or, for that matter, democratic. How do you express the democratic element? British Rail was the exception to this efficiency rule but it took 40 years of feast and famine funding to become efficient. Part of its process of becoming efficient was becoming more and more distanced from the presumably democratic control of ministers through their civil servants.

Civil servants and, our democratic representatives, the ministers, have plenty of opportunity to meddle in the privatised railway as it is now and they are making a pretty bad job of it. For example, they have gone out and bought trains that cost at least twice as much as they should.

So what would I do instead? End franchising. With immediate effect all future railway operating contracts to be let would be some kind of management contract or concession such as those beginning to be used in London and Liverpool. Move to align or unite train and infrastructure operation more and more. Profit is not the problem. lt is the stupid structure made worse by ministry meddling.

I tend to agree with you, Peter. Profits across all the train operating companies are around 2.1% and some make a loss. A nationalised industry would almost certainly be less economical and fares would have to rise. The billions of pounds paid in premiums by some companies for their franchises would be burnt up in the re-entry period and never seen again.

A further point on the over-priced new trains ordered by the Department for Transport is that many of them will not have power points or wi-fi [this is compatible with their high-density internal layout].

Just recently started using Northern Rail service from Middlesbrough to Whitby on a weekly basis £10.20 return to visit a relative, get the 19.39 back from Egton and without fail there has been problems on the train! Bad behaviour mostly caused by drunks returning home from Whitby! The first week there was also a delay, forgotten how long. The week before last a young male was causing havoc, the conductor spoke to him and warned him to behave, but the man continued to act out. The conductor contacted BTP who met him at the station and spoke to him, myself and my sister also spoke to the police and were advised we would be contacted for a statement in a few days. This did not happen but my sister who made the complaint received a letter, whilst we appreciated the fact that the offender was being dealt with they did not follow through. They also advised us the conductor can eject any person from the train whereas he told us he could not! Can somebody please clarify?

The guard/conductor can demand that someone leave the train but what then? There is no power of arrest and any physical contact would be assault. I wouldn’t call that power to do anything. No one is going to make such a demand unless they can be sure it will be complied with. If the person causing trouble refuses to leave, you’re now left with a worse situation than before you intervened and probably even more delay to the service.

I’ve found Virgin East Coast so disorganized in regard to delay repay that it took 6 months to get refunded. That said I’ve found out how one can use this to their advantage. The recipe is simple:

* Send off a complaint – Virgin will not reply in 3 weeks like they are supposed to.
* Phone your bank and ask for a Section 75 / Chargeback dispute to be filed against the transaction
* Send the bank a copy of the complaint you sent and the tickets
* In the mean time the back will take about 6 weeks to give you a full refund (even if your delay repay claim only entitles you to 50%), unless Virgin counter dispute, which is very rare.
* While waiting for the bank, pester Virgin via Facebook, Twitter and any other publicly visible channels about your original complaint
* Virgin will hopefully send you a cheque – it might be a month or two later, but if you’re lucky you’ll get refunded twice because Virgin won’t have released the you had been refunded by the bank because they are so disorganized.

Some might argue this is bit naughty. However I don’t see the issue if Virgin actually handled their complaints properly in the first place and acknowledged complaints and refunded customers in a timely manner. They would avoid it all together if they learnt how not mess things up royally in the first place. Secondly, I feel customers should be educated about doing this because all too often customers end up complaining to Virgin and giving up before they get refunded. If operators like Virgin and Southern are loosing money due to this they might actually learn the error of their ways.

I also want to add I’ve started handing out my own Delay Repay fliers when I travel with Virgin (who often delay me) in order to make sure consumers are aware of what they are allowed in terms of refunds – it is surprising how many people were not aware.

Will this also apply to a lack of air-con??
This is a particular issue with Cross country trains, they regularly have no air con (on a recent journey I recorded a temperature of over 30 degrees C). This is not the odd carriage but a regular feature, their facebook page has been full of complaints on hot days. I think they are deliberately not repairing to save money (as air con costs to run).
I’ve made written complaints to them and Passenger Focus but had no reply. If you could get compensation it would force them to do something.

There are still a lot of trains without air conditioning installed, or if it is it is switched out. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is a specified part of the service the absence of which can support a compensation claim.

The UK rail network should be state-run & state-owned, operated by the state and for whom any profits go back to the state, NOT THE GREEDY SHAREHOLDERS WHO CONTINUE TO HIKE RAIL FARES AND WHOSE CLAIMS HAVE YET TO BE DELIVERED.

Network Rail is state-owned and state-run. It costs all rail travellers a fortune and causes massive delays – up to 60% of all delays on some routes. The railway is state-controlled even if operations are in the hands of private franchisees. They contribute billions of pounds to the Department of Transport but shareholder returns are meagre. Maximum fare rises are determined by the state. In fact, there isn’t much of any significance on the railways that isn’t determined by the state through the franchise agreements.