/ Travel & Leisure

What’s the worst excuse you’ve heard for train delays?

Southeastern trains were delayed yesterday due to the ‘wrong kind of sun’. But travellers were unimpressed by this excuse. So what’s the worst or weirdest excuse you’ve heard for a rail delay?

It’s cold, pretty early and a miserable Monday morning – but the weather really isn’t that bad, so in true British-style I collect my brolley and walk to the train station.

Arriving at the station I make my way to the crowded platform, where to my disappointment an announcement booms over Platform 3: ‘Due to the inclement weather’ (oh no, I know what comes next) ’services to London are experiencing delays’ (again) *sigh*.

Now I know that safety should always come first, but what I can’t get my head around is why a bit of rain (in a country where we see a fair amount of it) seems to slow my train service down so frequently. So I can really sympathise with the frustrated Southeastern passengers who suffered delays yesterday due to the ‘strong sunlight’…

A poor excuse?

Southeastern rail passengers on services at Lewisham, south-east London, were disrupted yesterday morning because of the low winter sun.

According to Southeastern, the angle of the sun was causing ‘dispatching issues’ as the sunlight was preventing the driver from seeing the dispatch monitor. This meant the driver was having to manually check that the train was safe to depart the platform.

While safety should always be paramount, surely they’ve experienced these weather conditions before. Our weather isn’t all that bad after all and we do occasionally see some sunshine. Perhaps a simple solution would be a pair of sunglasses?

Communication is key

When excuses for train delays range from the sublime to the ridiculous all rail passengers want to hear is an apology and how they’ll be compensated for these delays.

We think that train companies need to do much more to treat their customers fairly, and be proactive in telling their customers how they can be refunded for delays and cancellations.

That’s why we’ve used our super-complaint powers to call on the rail regulator to take action. If you agree, then make sure you sign our petition.

So over to you then, what’s the strangest excuse you’ve heard for a delayed train?


Please target Virgin Trains East Coast in your campaign, they are awful! The best excuse I’ve heard is that if you contact them during the refund period you are allocated a new reference number thereby dropping you complaint priority to the bottom of the list. They are by far the shoddiest rail provider I’ve encountered. Oh yes, if you point out their failings or disagree with them on their Facebook page they remove all your negative comments and ban you. Shocking!

Paul says:
27 January 2016

Every time i hear about delay repay people seem to cite virgin trains and an example of good practice as they have automatic delay repay of money back into your bank account . This is not the case, if your train is cancelled your still have to go through their process of posting in a copy of the ticket or finding a scanner to scan it, then you get vouchers and then you have to write back to them to say you want a cheque so that you can put the money in your account. This whole process can take months.
My other annoyance is national rail in london where they still give out rail vouchers despite the fact that most people in london use oyster card. These vouchers cannot be put onto oyster cards as there are now no tube ticket offices and national rail stations don’t deal with oyster cards. Total stupidity

Paul says:
27 January 2016

what is this “lack of available staff” nonsense i keep hearing for delays. The last time i checked the UK didnt have full employment and there are a lot of people who would love to become train drivers, Employ more staff !! i imagine this solution wouldn’t make a huge dent into the millions of pounds of profit these companies already make

The “lack of available staff” excuse is probably a cover-up for bad deployment procedures or rostering difficulties caused by the deliberate policy [abetted by the trade unions] to run the railways on a personnel complement that is not sufficient to cover all timetables without rest-day working that attracts premium pay rates. It is not compulsory and since train drivers are now some of the highest-paid technical workers in UK industry they do not feel so inclined to give up their weekends and bank holidays to keep the system running.

I don’t know why the train companies don’t come clean – decades of history have demonstrated that their pathetic excuses attract derision and are a PR own-goal.

Jane says:
28 January 2016

Sunshine is the recent excuse by South Eastern.

Incidentally, it was a while ago now but one morning rush hour at Bromley South Station over the announciator were instructions to not join the already very long queue at the ticket office but to join the train to Victoria and purchase a ticket there (they have a kiosk between platforms 5 and 6). When the train arrived at Victoria station and passengers went to pay their dues they were hit by hefty fines from the inspectors laying in way at the kiosk for not purchasing a ticket before travelling!

Charlie says:
28 January 2016

Already sat on the train at Victoria “We can’t currently locate the guard…as soon as we do we’ll leave” still not as infuriating as EVERY single southern rail train constantly being late…

In the past I have applied for a refund from South Eastern in writing using the Company claim form. My complaint was never even answered which I tried to progress by phone. Eventually having been worn down by their system, I had to assume that the claim system was a complete waste of my time.

Pamela Hill says:
30 January 2016

This is what they’re hoping you do-give up. Hopefully you won’t have to try claiming again BUT if you do, please keep on trying and don’t give them the satisfaction of giving up.

I spent three months chasing up the refund of my £10 swallow up by that useless ticket machine at Aldrington and with no ticket or change issued in return. The whole refund process made me think that it was designed to make customers give up and go away.

James says:
31 January 2016

Try Arriva Trains Wales, excuses galore. They blame anyone and anything but themselves. They claim that a train has broken down in a station. But in reality, they can’t be arsed and drive the train the other way out of the station. It came in ok.

In August I received a refund voucher from Southeastern. When I pointed out to them that their website said that the best fares were available on-line and that this reduced or nullified the value of the voucher, they said I could exchange it at a booking office for cash. The clerk refused to this and Southeastern apologised for giving me wrong information. They asked me to return the voucher so they could issue a cheque but now say they have changed the people who deal with complaints so there will be yet further delay. This is behaviour typical of a monopoly.

Michelle says:
8 February 2016

I travel from Ipswich to London regularly which is not easy nor reliable at the best of times, however on one particular occasion I had purchased my return tickets in advance, only to arrive at the station to be advised my outgoing train had been cancelled! I had to get to my meeting by a set time so was forced to drive.

I DID receive a refund for my ticket, but only for the part of the journey cancelled as they argued I could have in fact used the return ticket as there were no issues with that train – what they didn’t suggest was how I would have arranged to get my car back from London had I made use of my pre purchased ticket!!!

Annie says:
18 February 2016

Signal failure and weather are the most common reasons provided for delays. Signals are controlled by Network Rail and the train companies are reliant on Network Rail’s Signallers and engineers to keep things running. Network Rail own the infrastructure including the trains, tracks, signals, stations, monitors etc. and again the various train companies are reliant on Network Rail for service and maintenance. The train companies are always apologising for delays and problems but the reality is that the issues are largely out of their control. Those in the transport industry and government are aware of this and more should be done to keep people properly informed.

Network Rail does not own the trains; in most cases they are owned by leasing companies and leased out to train operating companies. Although all the stations in Great Britain are owned by Network Rail only a small number – the major termini and interchanges – are operated by them. The remainder are operated by the train operating company that predominantly serves that station or is the largest operator on the route. Since Network Rail is now an arm of the Department for Transport it is a nationalised business.

R Jarvis says:
5 March 2020

A person being hit by a train is usually what you will hear at Stroud station. I have heard this around twice a month. Another is about another train being in the way. GWR do these all on a prerecorded message, so the first excuse is crass to say the least.