/ Money, Travel & Leisure

We’ve launched a campaign to make rail refunds easier

Train tickets

We’re tackling the issue of rail compensation head on by using our legal powers to submit a super-complaint to the Office of Rail and Road. We’re asking for rail refunds to be made clearer and easier for passengers.

Be it leaves on the line, the wrong kind of snow or a missing driver, train delays are an unwelcome feature of many train journeys. Sometimes, despite the frustration of a delay I almost have to laugh at the excuse given.

Train delays

But what isn’t a laughing matter is that passengers are regularly being put out and yet unclaimed compensation for delayed and cancelled train journeys is running in to millions of pounds each year.

That’s why we’ve submitted our super-complaint to the regulator and are asking for rail refunds to be made easier.

The latest figures show that 47 million passenger journeys were cancelled or significantly late in one year.

Yet our survey of almost 7,000 passengers found that only a third of passengers who may have been entitled to compensation made a claim. The fact that only 36% of those surveyed were informed of their rights after their last delay highlights why claiming levels are so low.

What’s the solution?

Train companies could easily make passengers aware of their rights when they’re delayed, and make the system easier too. Just the other week my parents were on a delayed train and yet there was no announcement about their entitlement to compensation. They asked the conductor for a refund form which duly appeared, but contained out of date and incorrect information about what they were entitled to.

If passengers waited for automatic compensation for delays to be rolled out, it would take until at least 2025 to cover the whole network. To get the system back on track we want clear information on how to get a refund for rail delays, with all train companies offering cash as the first option for compensation and for them to be held to account if they fail to encourage passengers to claim refunds.

Have you ever suffered from delayed or cancelled trains? Were you clear on your rights to claim compensation? Did you make a claim?

Patrick says:
21 December 2015

Is not just late claims that are difficult but also season ticket refunds. Currently struggling to get over £1000 back from Southern train company – and they have made it a nightmare.

John Hampson says:
21 December 2015

I have an annual ticket Brighton-London. The Delay Repay scheme operated by Southern is not user friendly. Moreover, i suspect that train operators like Southern may receive more in compensation for delays – say, from Network Rail – than they pay out to the travelling public. I put in a Freedom of Information request along these lines two or three years ago. Private companies like Southern are not subject to FoI requests, while the Department for Transport declined to provide the information on the grounds that it was commercially sensitive.

Basically Network Rail pay out Schedule 8 compensation to cover losses in *future* revenue due to delays. If you speak with the train companies … and we have … they are always keen to point out that this is supposed to be something totally different to compensation for the delay itself.

”TrainTrick Outreach
Born early in 2015. Now quickly growing up and working hard to make the lives of train passengers happier by automating train delay compensation!
#MakeARailDifference at traintrick.com ”

Reggie Renault says:
5 January 2016

As I understand it John, the TOCs (train operating companies) receive compensation from Network Rail when the train is late (i.e. 5 minutes or over later than the published arrival time) As you’ll know, the TOCs will only refund a passenger when the train is 30 mins or more late, therefore the TOCs are pocketing all the compensation payments for trains that are between 6 and 29 minutes late!

I heartily sympathise with you and other complainants on here. The whole problem is the American influenced privatising of our whole essential national infrastructure. Many people blame the EU for this “market levelling” approach but the whole policy reeks of American influence. Thank heaven’s I have now retired and when First Great Western mucked up and overcharged me on a rail journey I simply resolved never to use rail again and I haven’t. I walk, cycle, use only busses that are operated mostly correctly, coaches for long haul and our car. I have no need of rail now. When I last used rail regularly on business, it was state owned and although not perfect – the whole system seemed more reliable, better run, and affordable without all the deliberate deceit and deception used to maximise profits that you poor users have to put up with today . Most long haul trains had seats for all, had a restaurant that served affordable decent meals and was available to all without any extra charges. Now, we tax payers are subsidising the rail system whether we use it or not. I fail to see where the great advantage lies when many short haul airline and express coach tickets are cheaper than the rail equivalent. In addition, with rail use you have all the hassle, stress, humping luggage from one station to another and so on. Why bother? If the travelling public were to boycott the railways for a single month, they would create consternation among the well off elite who rule us and give a sharp lesson in people power. The rail companies would lose millions overnight and the resultant traffic congestion would bring the country to a standstill (don’t even get started about the extra pollution!!) Give it a try folks – it could be your best move yet!

I claimed a refund from Virgin East Coast for a 35min delay. It didn’t seem that tricky and I quickly received a £40 voucher which I have now used to travel on Transpennine. So the system works and will be even better now that the companies have agreed to pay compensation in cash rather than vouchers.
I can’t understand why people don’t claim.

Sometimes a delay is not a major problem, and if everyone claimed the cost of delays, rail fares would increase. I’m concerned by the growth of the so-called compensation culture.

I’m certainly not condoning poor management – where individuals should be given less responsible positions. Some delays can be for reasons that would be difficult or impossible to avoid.

We have seen examples of a compensation culture on some earlier conversations. Sometimes the easy way out for an organisation is to cough up rather than spend time looking at the case. If someone suffers a loss because of an organisations fault, then I consider compensation is due. But in some cases there is no loss. We individuals all end up paying for this compensation – it does not come out of some magic pot.

The more people claim, the better the service. At year-end, all these cases should be analysed by the operators and the statistics will point to the common fault within the organisation – an opportunity to redress the failing. In claiming you are doing them a favour by pointing out that there are failures in the organisation. The operators should be thanking the claimants for pointing out their weakness, which they can redress to save on claims.

Yep, correct. Currently it is paid for by Network Rail. A public body. Therefore indirectly funded by us.

And here is the delicious irony. It’s then paid to the operating companies if a train is 5 or more minutes late. The operating companies only compensate its customers at 30 minutes plus. Some of this compensation hits their bottom line.

We pay for the tickets. We pay for the compensation. We are subjected to the delays. And the operating companies increase their profits.

I disagree with this campaign – on every occasion that I’ve been delayed (and I mean a proper delay i.e. an hour or more) the train guard has announced the compensation offer and/or handed out forms. Maybe it needs better PR so people are more routinely aware but this campaign makes it sound like some kind of deliberate deception which is not my experience.

I have experience on more than one occasion of my train company (Thameslink) refusing to pay valid compensation claims, and underpaying claims. I had to make several calls and send multiple emails to get what I was due, but I wonder how often they get away with underpaying, or not paying at all.

I’ve signed the petition, but to be fair, following the most recent journeys I had with Virgin (in December, where I purchased the tickets online, using a credit card, Virgin notified me that they would pay the compensation due to late arrival, directly into my credit card account. I haven’t so far been able to check that. This is very much fairer and more straightforward. Previously, I claimed compensation for a cancelled train and this was provided in the form of a rail travel voucher. I used this about 9 months later for a different journey, but was not able to spend the full amount of the compensation.

I was reading the Evening Standard today and it claimed £100m lost by 47m passengers which seems rather a measly £2+ per person. This seems either unlikely cheap or a lot of fuss over not a lot. Has the Standard got the amount wrong?

My return journey from Cardiff to Bangor took eleven hours, instead of the four last Christmas. I had to leave the train – and a bus was supposed to take us to Shrewsbury station, the only problem was that the diver didn’t know where Shrewsbury station was, and kept having to stop and reverse several times, which made a half hour journey into an hour, and I missed the train..thus missing my connection in Chester. It was snowing and cold, I was 73 years old and just had a shoulder operation which made lugging a case up and down steps agony. Nobody seemed to know which platform the train for Chester ran from at Shrewsbury, so had to wait, and whoever was in charge of the information board kept changing the arrival times, it was chaotic. I’m making the same journey again this week, x fingers it will be a successful journey home this time. I did write to complain hoping for some compensation but heard nothing.

Travelling from Cardiff to West Wales on 12/12/15.Was told at Cardiff that there was no change.On arriving in Swansea,we found out that we had to change to another Train.Eventually we managed to get on the Train.All the seats were taken and the Isles were Packed,prior to boarding the Train i asked a Rail employee what was the situation regarding Health and safety,His reply was.You can always wait for the next Train.

Marie says:
22 December 2015

Last Friday I travelled from Preston to Crewe and was not surprised that my train was delayed as part of the after-effects of the floods in Cumbria. However, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email on Saturday informing me that as I had bought my ticket online from Virigin and as my train had been just over half an hour late they were making an automatic refund of 50% of the ticket price to my credit card – I hadn’t realised that the rules had changed and I’m now entitled to a refund after half an hour’s delay, I thought it was still an hour. However, it does seem rather unfair that I get my refund without doing anything but someone else who bought their ticket in person and paid cash may not know that they are entitled to a refund!

Christina Bachini says:
22 December 2015

I have just realised that a cancelled train to Edinburgh for which I filled in a form for a refund, never actually came and the information was lost. So I lost a single fare to Edinburgh. I think the rail companies are very relaxed about how theycompensate so yes they should make it easier.

One thing that does tend to be ignored is the administrative costs of implementing these systems for refunds.

Obviously the pre-booked tickets and auto-refund to the card by Virgin is a good sign of what is possible. Whether it can economically and sensibly extended to all tickets, however they are bought, is perhaps more complicated.

Just for information and raised with Megatrain this morning.

Their frequent answered questions tell you they do not pay compensation or refunds for delays. They do not tell you that you need to contact the Rail Company concerned to get a refund.

With Trainline its the same, you need to contact the TOC ocnerned.

I am a frequent traveller with South-West Trains. I have rarely submitted compensation claims, as their process on theory is supposed to be easy, but practically throttled at every stage. It seems to be their standard business practice to ignore any complaints/comments, and I don’t remember ever getting any compensation. I have stopped filling out their forms, as it is not worth my time or aggro. Shame, I cannot use another train company in my area.

As I have a season ticket and to claim any compensation the train company requires me to hand in my ticket as proof I don’t bother to even try to claim.

I can fully understand how frustrating it must be for everyone affected by delays and cancellations. However I cannot support this compensation culture which seems to be taking over every aspect of life now. We end up doing nothing and avoiding any risks for fear of being sued and condemned to vast compensation claims.

Its more for the fact that all rail provider get paid this money from the government to cover this cost regardless if the customer claims it or not. Some train company will only refund you 50% of the ticket cost if it cancled or delayed over a hour. That’s what most of us have a issue with.

Carol C says:
29 December 2015

Hildegard, I see your point, but how does one change a bad service into a better one. other than by
complaining and insisting one is recompensed for situations that are basically not their fault?

I feel that passengers should have explanation of how to claim a refund which is clear and easy to understand. Also there should be a central office to assist passengers to claim refunds.

VIRGIN TRAINS are the exception. If you book online at Virgin Trains website you automatically get compensation refunded to the card you used for booking.

You do not need to fill any forms in and most times their email confirming refund arrives within a short time of arriving home! It avoids having to cash those vouchers.
A fantastic service. Also note that most delays are down to Network Rail and not the TOC.

Disgruntled says:
23 December 2015

Delayed train from London to Hull taken in November,contacted Virgin East Coast,acknowledged,ticket requested and forwarded,still awaiting after further phone call commenting “It should have been dealt with by now” still waiting ! now 43 days since journey.

Why are we subsidising the national railway (privatised) to the tune of £9 billion a year,
when we can’t finance the NHS?

Why should the profits subsidise foreign railways and not ours.Why cant the train network be owned by us and go back into profit.IE east coast main line was making 1million a year while owned by us but had to be sold off.Why!!!