There are three different ways you can claim your money back for train delays and cancellations:
Most UK train companies now offer compensation under the national 'Delay Repay' scheme.
It means you can make a claim regardless of whether it's a return or single journey, or whether you’re travelling on a season ticket.
If you’ve experienced a train delay or cancellation of at least 15 minutes or 30 minutes (depending on your train company) you'll be entitled to a full or partial refund for that journey.
A few are still operating less generous compensation schemes according to their Passenger Charters. Check with your train company before you buy your tickets.
There are some exceptions to the rules, and compensation rules are different when there’s engineering work or strikes happening.
How much you’re entitled to and how it is calculated changes if you've got a single, return or season ticket.
Some train companies offer their season ticket holders renewal discounts.
It will get you money off your weekly, monthly or longer season ticket when you renew it.
The discount depends on whether the performance targets for the train company you use have been met.
These targets will vary according to the route you travel on, so check with your operator.
If performance misses the targets, monthly and longer season ticket holders will receive an automatic discount on their ticket when they renew it, regardless of whether they have been affected by delays or not.
There can be some restrictions to renewal discounts (like renewing your new ticket within four weeks of the day your old ticket expires). Make sure you check with the train operator ahead of your current ticket expiring so you’re not caught out.
In Scotland renewal discounts aren't available because season tickets are regulated fares, and are set by Scottish Government.
Other regulated fares include:
You can use the act if you've suffered a financial loss because the train company has failed to deliver its service with 'reasonable care and skill', for example:
You can also claim back any additional out-of-pocket expenses you’ve suffered because of your train being delayed or cancelled.
In legal speak this is called a 'consequential loss,' here are a few examples:
Making a successful claim isn't always straightforward, and you’ll need to prove:
It’s a good idea to seek out legal advice if your claim is of particularly high value or complicated
Having a bad experience with train travel is likely to make you less keen on going back for more, so it’s understandable if vouchers don’t seem appealing to you.
When you start your claim, there should be an option to state how you would like to receive compensation. You are not obligated to accept rail vouchers as compensation, so if you don't want rail vouchers, ask for money.
You might find that you have to explicitly request a cash refund or your train company may choose to give you vouchers as default instead.
If you’ve had a final response that you’re not happy with, or haven’t heard from the train company about your complaint in 40 working days, you can escalate your complaint.
The Rail Ombudsman is a free and independent service that investigates complaints about train companies.
All major train operators in the UK that have franchise agreements with the Department for Transport must abide by any ombudsman decision. Transport for London doesn't fall into the ombudsman's scope.
The Rail Ombudsman will ask you to explain what happened and what you would like the train company to do about it.
It might also ask you for things such as:
If you decided not to travel by train because of a delay or cancellation, you can cancel and get a full refund.
A full refund also applies if you have started your journey but are unable to complete it due to delay or cancellations, and so have returned to your departure point.
You should not be asked to pay an administration fee and you don’t have to accept rail vouchers, even if you bought your ticket with a rail voucher. The same goes for tickets bought online, over the phone or through a travel agent.
In most cases any disruption due to engineering work is heavily publicised beforehand, and most train companies will publish a revised timetable that sets out when reduced services (if any) will be running.
To claim compensation under Delay Repay (or other industry arrangements) during engineering work you'll need to be delayed long enough to qualify under that train company’s rules based on the revised timetable your train company has published, not the regular timetable.
This is not necessarily the case where engineering work overruns beyond the revised timetable. In this case you may be able to claim compensation based on the regular timetable, as long as your train company is signed up to Delay Repay.
Sometimes an emergency timetable will be put in place when a strike happens.
You can only claim compensation during a rail strike for a delay based on the replacement or emergency timetable for train or replacement bus services.
Even then, you could only be eligible for compensation once you’ve boarded an alternative service and it’s delayed.
But the length of the delay you have to endure before you get offered a payout can vary from company to company.
Sometimes trains will skip smaller stations in order to stay on schedule.
If you've been delayed because a train didn’t stop to pick you up you can claim compensation for the delay based on when your scheduled service was meant to arrive at your final destination until the time that you actually did arrive.
If you’re onboard but your train doesn’t stop at your intended destination you can claim compensation based on the delay from when you were meant to get off until you can get back to that station using another service.
If you decide not to travel because of the delay caused by a train skipping your station, you must be paid a full refund.