Your compensation entitlement
Different train companies have different compensation policies for season ticket holders who have experienced delays or cancellations. You can find a list of the main train operators below, with details on what compensation they offer.
Most refunds for season ticket holders tend to be calculated using the proportional daily cost of the price of your annual ticket, which is outlined below.
The three ways to claim compensation
There are three different ways you can claim your season ticket 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 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.
If you’re travelling with Transport for London, read our section on TfL delay compensation.
Nine in ten train journeys are now available as smart tickets - as well as the paper ticket option.
While we fully appreciate paperless tickets will not be for everyone, smart tickets are faster to buy and harder to lose.
If your train operator is signed up to provide smart tickets, you will also be able to use your smart ticket to claim ‘one-click compensation,’ which makes the process of claiming faster. So it’s worth considering which type of ticket you buy.
1 Make a Delay Repay claim
Delay Repay is the national scheme that most UK train companies now use to compensate you for delays and cancellations.
Delay Repay applies to all tickets including season tickets. Under Delay Repay, passengers are able to claim for compensation even if the company was not responsible for the delay - because of bad weather or a signalling failure, for example.
Passengers are entitled to compensation each time for any delay of 30 minutes or more. Some train companies, such as Southern, Great Northern and South Western Railway, offer compensation each time for any delay of 15 minutes or more.
For most train companies, season ticket holders currently need to submit claims for compensation for delays on specific trains, rather than receive an automatic discount at renewal.
There are a few train companies who offer automatic compensation under certain conditions.
Which? is calling for all UK train operators to offer automatic compensation. Which? wants to see:
- Automatic compensation introduced as quickly and broadly as possible across the entire rail network and by all train operating companies
- In the short term, increased measures from train operating companies to better inform passengers of their rights to compensation and how to claim
- Full compliance from train operating companies with existing consumer protection laws, such as the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
Details on how to claim for Delay Repay will be on each train company's website, but they should operate Delay Repay for season ticket holders on this basis:
To calculate the compensation value of each journey, the train company will divide the cost of your annual season ticket by 464; other period tickets are calculated pro-rata on the same basis.
- an annual season ticket covers 464 single journeys
- a six-monthly season ticket covers 240 single journeys
- a quarterly season ticket covers 120 single journeys
- a monthly season ticket covers 40 single journeys
- a weekly season ticket covers 10 single journeys
If you're delayed by:
- 15-29 minutes (if offered) you're entitled to 25% of the cost of a single journey
- 30-59 minutes you're entitled to 50% of the cost of a single journey
- 60-119 minutes you're entitled to 100% of the cost of a single journey
- 120+ minutes you're entitled to 100% of the cost of a return journey (a full day’s travel)
2 Start your claim against your train companyAs a season ticket holder travelling with a train operator offering Delay Repay, you may also be awarded extra compensation in the case of sustained poor service. So, make sure you ask if this has been the case.
Passenger’s Charter delay compensation
If the train company you are travelling with doesn’t offer Delay Repay or renewal discounts to compensate you for delays and cancellations, check their Passenger’s Charter. They should still offer compensation for season ticket holders.
For example, Chiltern Railways does not offer Delay Repay or renewal discounts. According to its Passenger’s Charter it offers season ticket compensation for delay or cancellation claims - except where those which arise due to circumstances outside its control.
Transport for London (TfL) delay refunds
Transport for London (TfL) offers refunds if a passenger's tube, DLR or Emirates Air Line journey is delayed for more than 15 minutes and you claim within 28 days.
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 Rail users have to be delayed by more than 30 minutes and claim within 28 days to receive compensation.
TfL won’t issue refunds for delays outside of its control, including:
- Security alerts
- Bad weather
- Customer incidents (eg a person falling ill on a train)
- Engineering works
It also won’t issue refunds for people travelling for free including if you’re using a Freedom Pass, 60+ Oyster photocard, Veterans Oyster photocard, or are aged 11 or under.
You also cannot get a refund if you were delayed on a TfL bus or tram.
Visit the TfL website for full details of how much you could get and how to claim.
3 Get a season ticket renewal discount
A renewal discount is a discount on monthly and longer season tickets when you renew. 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.
It is likely the delay and cancellation targets will exclude any journeys which were impacted due to circumstances the train operator deemed outside of its control. This includes vandalism, the striking of a bridge by a vehicle, line closures at the request of the police or emergency services, and suicides or accidents involving trespassers.
There aren’t many companies that operate this scheme, but here are the ones that do:
- Arriva Trains Wales offers season ticket discount on renewal and void days
- Great Western Railway offers a season ticket renewal discount according to its Passenger Charter
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.
4 Use the Consumer Rights Act
If you find you don’t qualify for Delay Repay, auto-compensation or a refund under train company’s Passenger Charter compensation conditions, you may wish to consider a claim under the Consumer Rights Act travel amendments.
If you’ve waited a disproportionate length of time. You could make a claim under the Consumer Rights Act for a reduction in your ticket price if you’ve waited 20 minutes to take a 10 minute journey and the delay was caused by the train company’s failure to provide the service with reasonable skill and care.
If your service fell below the standard you’d expect. If you’re paying to travel by train you’re purchasing a service, and it must be provided with reasonable care and skill.
The Consumer Rights Act also gives you the right to claim compensation for a poor service, if you feel the service you’ve received falls way below the standard you’d expect.
If you suffered other losses or costs. If you are seeking compensation for any losses or other costs, most train companies will not offer compensation as part of their season ticket compensation offering.
But Which? thinks that attempts to use blanket exclusions on liability for additional costs is unfair.
Under common law you're entitled to claim for reasonable and foreseeable losses as a result of a train delay or cancellation, where the delay or cancellation was caused by the train company’s failure to provide the service with reasonable care and skill.
For example, you can claim for the additional costs incurred if, due to a delay or cancellation, you missed a connecting journey and had to pay for an alternative service.
See our guide to make a claim using the Consumer Rights Act.
5 Take your complaint further
If you're not happy with the response you get from the train company, or don't receive the refund you think you're entitled to, try contacting:
- Transport Focus - if your journey was outside London or if your complaint is about the National Rail Enquiries Service;
- London TravelWatch - if your journey was within London and surrounding areas (including those on London Underground or London Overground).
Explain the situation to them, and include copies of the response you have received from the train company.
Raise a second complaint
If you're unhappy with the response of Transport Focus or London TravelWatch, get in touch again and raise a complaint with them about how your complaint has been handled.
Contact the Ombudsman
If you're still unhappy with the way your complaint has been handled, you can take it to the Parliamentary Ombudsman (for Transport Focus), or the London TravelWatch Chief Executive.
And, if you're still unhappy with London TravelWatch you can refer your complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.
Claim on your credit card
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 entitled 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 travel amendments if you’re in this situation, and if the train company isn't playing ball, you should then consider taking legal advice.