Your refund options
Most train companies now offer a refund under the national Delay Repay scheme when you experience delays and cancellations.
Train companies that don’t offer Delay Repay will also have compensation rules explained in their Passenger’s Charter, but these may only apply if the problem which caused the delay or cancellation was something deemed to be in their control.
You can find a list of the main train operators below, with details on what compensation they offer.
There are three different ways you can claim your money back:
- Delay Repay a national scheme most train companies now use that pays compensation depending on the length of your delay.
- Passenger’s Charter an older scheme some train companies still operate that only pays compensation in certain circumstances.
- Consumer Rights Act legislation that gives you the right to claim compensation if a travel service is provided without reasonable care and skill and claim for extra financial losses you've incurred as a result.
If you’re travelling with Transport for London, see 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, which applies to all tickets, including single (one way) and return 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, single and return 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 that offer automatic compensation under certain conditions - usually for season ticket holders who hold smart cards.
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.
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Train delays & complaints
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Passenger’s Charter delay compensation
Train companies not offering Delay Repay consider claims on a case by case basis and are only contractually obliged to pay compensation in certain circumstances.
For example they may not pay out if the delay was caused by something outside the control of the rail industry.
If the train company you are travelling with doesn’t offer Delay Repay to compensate you for a delay or cancellation, check their Passenger’s Charter.
For example, Chiltern Railways does not offer Delay Repay. But, according to its Passenger’s Charter, it does offer compensation for delay or cancellation claims - except where those which arise due to circumstances outside its control.
Transport for London 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.
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.
2 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 using the Consumer Rights Act.
If you’ve waited a disproportionate length of time. For example, you could make a claim for a partial refund of your ticket price under the Consumer Rights Act 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 care and skill.
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.
Under the Consumer Rights Act you can also make a claim for a poor service, if you feel the service you’ve received falls 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.
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.
The common law principle of 'consequential loss' means 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 skill and care.
For example, you can claim back any extra 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 complaint using the Consumer Rights Act.
3 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.