How to claim train delay compensation

There are three different ways you can claim your money back for train delays and cancellations:

  • Delay Repay  a national scheme most train companies now use that pays compensation depending on the length of your delay.
  • Renewal discounts  a discount for season ticket holders that depends on whether the performance targets for the train company you use have been met.
  • Consumer Rights Act  legislation that gives you the right to claim compensation if a travel service is provided without reasonable care and skill. You can also claim for reasonable and foreseeable additional financial losses you've incurred as a result.

Make a Delay Repay claim

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.

Get a renewal discount

A renewal discount gets you money off your weekly, monthly or longer season tickets 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.

Use the Consumer Rights Act 

If you find you don’t qualify for compensation, you can consider a claim using the Consumer Rights Act.

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:

  1. If you’ve waited a disproportionate length of time, but don’t qualify for compensation under the train company’s compensation scheme. For example, you waited 25 minutes to make a 10-minute journey.
  2. If your service fell way below the standard you’d expect. For example, you might have had to travel on a severely overcrowded train because there were too few carriages were available.
  3. If you suffered reasonable additional losses or costs (outside of the cost of your ticket), which train companies do not openly offer compensation for. For example, due to a delay or cancellation you may have missed a connecting journey and had to pay for an alternative service.

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:

  • a taxi or uber you had to use because the train was cancelled or did not stop at your station
  • overtime you’ve had to pay your childcare provider
  • a missed flight
  • a hotel room you had to book because the last train of the day was cancelled
  • costs attributable to a failure to provide disabled access when booked in advance.

Making a successful claim isn't always straightforward, and you’ll need to prove:

  1. that the service failure was the fault of the train company and not a Network Rail issue (eg signal failure or track problems)
  2. how your losses are linked to a breach of contract by the train company
  3. that you took all reasonable steps to lessen your losses (eg you tried to take another train or a taxi)
  4. that the losses were either reasonably foreseeable by the train company (eg a hotel room when you’re stranded after the last train of the day is cancelled) or you alerted the train company to your circumstances in advance (eg by booking disabled access)
  5. that the costs were reasonably incurred (eg you went for a modest rather than 5-star hotel).

It’s a good idea to seek out legal advice if your claim is of particularly high value or complicated

Vouchers or cash?

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.

Escalate your complaint to the Rail Ombudsman

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:

  • copies of correspondence (letters, emails, texts) about the complaint (including if you have had a 'deadlock' letter from the Service Provider saying they are not taking it any further)
  • proof that you bought a ticket, booked a service in advance, had a seat reservation, needed assistance at a station etc
  • any relevant receipts
  • dates and times of travel
  • offers or replies received from the train company
  • alternative routes or actions that you took to avoid extra costs or delays to your journey;  photographs; and screenshots.

For more information about the process you can check the Rail Ombudsman’s website.

My train has been delayed, can I just cancel my ticket and get a refund?

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.

Can I claim compensation if my train is delayed by engineering work?

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.

Can I claim compensation if my train is delayed by a strike?

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.

Can I claim compensation if train skips my station?

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.

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