Many train companies have different rules, so it can be tricky to work out what you're entitled to if your train has been delayed or cancelled. Find out more here.
National Rail Conditions of Carriage
These are the minimum levels of compensation train companies have to offer. Many offer more generous compensation than this for delays, so it's worthwhile checking the company's site for full details.
The National Rail Conditions of Carriage are the underlying rules for train travel in Britain. These conditions set out the amount of compensation you're entitled to.
The minimum compensation for a delay is 50% of your single ticket (25% of a return, unless you were delayed on both legs) if you're more than one hour late.
These conditions are stingier than most of the train companies' own rules on compensation for delay.
How do I claim compensation?
The amount of compensation you're entitled to will depend on the length of your delay.
Use our guide to find out how to claim compensation for train delays and cancellations
Most train operators are signed up to the Delay Repay scheme. This means you can claim 50% of your journey cost if you're delayed by half an hour, regardless of the reason for the delay.
If you're delayed by an hour, you'll get a refund of the full journey cost.
National Rail compensation
The National Rail Conditions of Carriage state that compensation must be provided as cash or National Rail vouchers.
Having a bad experience with train travel is likely to make you less keen on going back for more so vouchers may not appeal.
Importantly, if you don't want rail vouchers, you must explicitly request a cash refund or your train company may give you vouchers instead.
Season tickets and compensation
Refunds for season ticket holders tend to be calculated using the proportional daily cost of the price of your annual ticket.
Consumer Rights Act travel amendments
If you’re paying to travel by train you’re purchasing a service, and it must be provided with reasonable care and skill.
If the service you’ve received falls way below the standard you’d expect, you might be entitled to claim a full or partial refund. You can also claim for consequential losses.
Train companies duty of care
If circumstances within the control of a train company leave you stranded, any train company that can help should.
They should get you to your destination or give you overnight accommodation.
Transport for London (TFL) offers refunds if a passenger's journey is delayed for more than 15 minutes.
For tube passengers, this amounts to the fare for the single journey you were making, whether you have a season ticket or have purchased a single fare.
London Overground and TFL users have to be delayed by more than 30 minutes.
You must claim within 14 days to be eligible for a refund.
Exceptions to compensation rules
Some companies, including TFL, Chiltern Railways, Arriva Trains Wales, South West Trains, Northern Rail, Grand Central, and First Transpennine Express, don't yet offer Delay Repay.
As such compensation often doesn't apply if delays, cancellations or poor service happened for reasons outside the train company's control, for example:
- Acts or threats of vandalism or terrorism
- Suicides or accidents involving trespassers
- Gas leaks or fires in lineside buildings not caused by a train company
- Line closures at the request of the police or emergency services
- Exceptionally severe weather conditions
- Industrial action
- Riots or civil commotion
- Fire, mechanical or electrical failure or a defect (except where caused by a train company or its trains’ defects)
Smartphone app for passenger rights
The European Commission has launched an app for passengers travelling in the EU.
The application covers your rights for all modes of transport, and is available on the following platforms - Apple iPhone and iPad, Google Android, RIM Blackberry and Microsoft Windows Phone 7.
Section 75 update
In January 2017 a fed up Southern Rail commuter managed to successfully claim £2,400 of his season ticket back under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
The commuter stated that Southern Rail's poor performance in recent months meant he was enttiled to a 50% refund on his ticket.
Under Section 75 your credit card company is jointly liable if something goes wrong with a product or a service you've paid for by credit card.
Which? doesn't believe that passengers affected by a bad service should have to resort to Section 75 to get compensation.
Our advice to passengers is to seek compensation under the Consumer Rights Act, and if the train company isn't playing ball, you should then consider taking legal advice.