/ Travel & Leisure

Why isn’t it easier to claim rail fare compensation?

Train at night

If your train’s late, you might think it’s simply the length of the delay that matters when claiming compensation. You’d be wrong. No wonder many of us are confused about what we’re entitled to when our trains get delayed.

Lateness is just one factor in successfully getting compensation. Since each train company has a different agreement with the government, all agreed at different times, there’s a big range of entitlements.

For an hour’s delay on a long distance train, you can get anything from 25-100% of your fare back. And half of firms give no compensation if you’re delayed more than 30 minutes but less than 1 hour. Some train companies even have different compensation levels for different bits of their network.

Rail vouchers and refunds

And if all these delays have put you off train travel, you may not be delighted to hear that compensation often comes in rail vouchers! There is one advantage to this – the vouchers can thankfully be used with any train company, not just the one you were delayed on.

To add confusion, refunds (available only if you haven’t used your ticket) come under a totally different system to compensation. This might sound totally mad, but separate rules generally make refunds much more generous than compensation for delays.

This leads to the bizarre result that if there was an event outside the rail industry’s control, such as bad snow (for which you’d get no compensation), you’d be better off staying at home and claiming a refund, rather than getting on a delayed train.

Annual ticket holders left out

You might be left out entirely if you’ve got a monthly or annual season ticket! Confused yet?

What I mean is that although most rail companies let you claim compensation if you’re delayed beyond a certain time, many won’t do the same for monthly or annual ticket holders. So, despite forking out say five grand for your annual ticket, you could get nothing.

Instead, some rail companies, like First Great Western, will only offer compensation if their performance drops below a certain level. This doesn’t happen very often.

So you have to be a bit of an expert to know what you’re entitled to. We think all rail companies should offer the very same terms for delayed trains, no matter what type of ticket you have. Do you? And how easy have you found it to claim compensation or a refund from a rail company?

Kim says:
17 June 2013

I commute daily between Bletchley and Bedford. I January my train was cancelled and replaced by busses every day for a month, and when the train came back, it had insufficient heating for over a month. I have complained, but haven’t received a penny in compensation. Can this be right?
Any advice is highly appreciated. I am very frustrated. Thank you.



Gordon says:
20 March 2015

Compensation for matters other than delays seem to be impossible. On a recent First Great Western journey I chose to travel in First Class and got a carriage with a door jammed open, no power, a conductor who sat in the aisle and ate chicken with his fingers and announcements that couldn’t be heard (due to the fact that the door was open).

I asked for a partial refund and was told that I wouldn’t be given one because the train arrived on time.

Mark says:
5 July 2015


Anybody got any experience of a 30 min delay on tfl meaning I missed last connecting central line train. do I have any recourse to TFL to ask for re-reimbursement of taxi fare?
Thanks in advance

I think the most you might get is a reimbursement of your TfL fare depending on how long they regard a delay before it qualifies for compensation. I’m sure you’ll find an answer to your question somewhere on their website, but generally public transport operators do not give recompense for consequential losses.