How to claim compensation for train delays

Delays, cancellations, over-priced tickets, standing-room only - sound like the train line you travel on?

Passengers using the majority of train companies are unhappy with the service they receive, according to the latest consumer survey. Here, we explain how you can fight back…

Why we’re fed up

One in five of 7,400 regular train passengers questioned by consumer organisation Which? experienced a delay on their last journey, rising to one in four for commuters, so it’s hardly surprising that we’re sick and tired of the service we receive from train companies.

According to the Which? annual train satisfaction survey, the majority of companies fail to score over 50% when it comes to customer satisfaction, with Greater Anglia and Southeastern scoring just 40%.

Delays aren’t the only issue. Customer service is often lacking, and passengers frequently have to put up with broken toilets and crammed carriages. Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: 'It’s disappointing to see some train companies consistently falling down on the basics of customer service, with dirty and overcrowded carriages and toilets that don’t work.”

Millions missing out on compensation

Despite the fact we’re dissatisfied with our tardy and over-crowded trains, three-quarters of us are unaware of our compensation and refund rights, according to a study by the Office of Rail Regulation.

Over 75% of rail passengers questioned admitted that they “do not know very much” or “nothing at all” about their rights to compensation when trains are delayed or cancelled. A massive 68% of passengers never submit a claim following delays, with only one in 10 saying they “always” or “usually” submit a claim.

By the end of this year, a new code of practice will come into operation, which should make it clear what information passengers can expect from their train companies, including information on the different types of fares, any restrictions that apply, and key terms and conditions, such as compensation and refund rights.

Remember too that you almost always make savings by booking tickets online in advance, which you can do here.

How much compensation are you entitled to if your train is late or cancelled?

The amount of compensation you can claim for a train delay or cancellation depends on several factors, including whether you have a single journey ticket or a season ticket, and what kind of compensations scheme your rail company operates. For example, some rail companies use what is known as the “Delay Repay” scheme, which means passengers can claim 50% of the cost of their ticket back after a half hour delay, or a full refund if they have been delayed by an hour or more.

Other train companies use a “Charter” scheme, where the amount of compensation varies. However, the minimum amount of compensation you are entitled to under this type of scheme if you have been delayed by an hour is 20% of the value of your single ticket, or 10% if it is a return ticket.

Most rail companies pay more than this, typically offering 50% of your ticket for a delay of 30 minutes or more.

Compensation is paid in National Rail vouchers, which can be used with any train company. The delay must have been within the train company’s control, so if bad weather conditions have caused it, you’re unlikely to qualify. You can find out more about your consumer rights and travel delays from our video here.

How to make a claim

Your first port of call if your train is late or cancelled should be the relevant train company website. Many of these will have online complaint forms which you can complete in the event of a train delay or cancellation. If your train company doesn’t have one, you’ll need to write to the customer services department of the train company involved, explaining what happened.

You’ll need to send your tickets, but make sure you take a copy of them first. Claims must be submitted within 28 days.

If you want to take things further

If you aren’t happy with the response you’ve received from your rail company, you can contact the independent passenger watchdog, Passenger Focus. They may be able to take up your complaint with the rail company involved. Once you’ve contacted Passenger Focus, you should receive a response from them within five days letting them know if they can help take your complaint further with the train company.

If they can, they will aim to resolve your case within 35 working days, although the current average handling time for appeals is 25 days. To find out more about taking rail complaints further, click here.
Passenger Focus only deals with journeys outside London. For journeys within London, including those on London Underground or London Overground, you’ll need to contact London Travel Watch, which is the statutory appeals body if you have a complaint about any aspect of London Transport.

You can find an online complaints form here.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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