/ Travel & Leisure

Are there too many rail rules and regs?

The government’s in the middle of a bonfire of rules and regulations that it calls the Red Tape Challenge. It wants to cut red tape to turn the stagnant UK economy around. And now it’s the turn of Britain’s railway.

As you may or may not be aware, when you buy a train ticket there are certain rules that are supposedly there to protect you if your journey doesn’t go quite as well as you might like it to.

How you’re protected on the trains

The main regulations concerning passengers are the National Rail Conditions of Carriage and the Penalty Fare regulations.

The Conditions of Carriage say that if you’re delayed on a train for a certain amount of time, you’re entitled to compensation. And if you haven’t even started your journey then you have the right to a full refund.

This regulation also entitles you to help from the train company if you experience a severe delay, including hotel accommodation if the delay is so long that you need somewhere to stay over night.

Other (perhaps more unknown) passenger rights also include refunds (minus a maximum £10 administration charge) for tickets you don’t use, and refunds for part of your season ticket if you’ve only used it for part of the time it’s valid.

As for the Penalty Fare regulations, they not only ensure the cost of your penalty fair if you’re caught without a ticket, but they will protect you if you were unable to buy a ticket due to the ticket office being closed or the vending machine being broken.

Will passengers be left high and dry?

There is a risk that these passenger protections will be lost as part of the government’s Red Tape Challenge, resulting in the quality of service we currently pay (often handsomely) for being eroded.

Is there any thing wrong in the above said regulations? It seems fair that you get compensation if you don’t get what you originally paid for. And it also seems fair that you won’t be left high and dry in the middle of nowhere with no help from the train company if your train is delayed.

So, perhaps you think these regulations are fine as they are and should be left well alone? Or maybe the above regulations don’t go far enough? For example, should train companies be obliged to pay more compensation if you’re delayed, or pay compensation for shorter delays?

Alternatively, you might be happy with your train service and feel that all of these regulations ultimately mean passengers have to pay more for their tickets.

What would you like to be done to the current rail rules and regulations? Should they be scrapped, reformed, simplified or left alone?


Given the tendency to capricious behaviour on the part of the train operating companies in those areas where the NCC does not apply, I think it is absolutely essential to protect and preserve the fundamental rights that passengers have acquired over nearly two centuries of rail travel. Yes, they are mind-numbingly complicated but at least they secure a degree of standardisation, consistency and equitability. Infractions of the railway’s rules usually invoke petty job’s-worthery of a high order but that’s no reason to abolish them. Far better to insist on higher standards of customer care so that when the railway officials catch some poor soul with the right ticket on the wrong train they apply the regulations with consideration and goodwill. As quoted in the “Dambusters” film [I know not from whom]: “Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools”.