Most train users unaware of rights, says rail regulator

rail passengers Passengers can claim compensation if they choose not to travel on a delayed train

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Most train passengers are unaware of their rights to compensation after cancellations or delays, the rail regulator has said.

As many as 75% of those using Britain's railways do not know enough about claiming money back, said the study for the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).

For example, passengers choosing not to travel after a delay or cancellation are entitled to a full refund.

In response, the industry admitted that more needed to be done.

In addition to being unaware of their rights, the study found that 74% of passengers thought train operators did not do enough to inform people about how to claim compensation.

Some passengers said such information should be displayed more prominently on websites or posters.

Your rights to compensation

departure board
  • If your train is cancelled or delayed, and you choose not to travel, you can claim
  • Even if you travel, you may be entitled to compensation
  • If train is one hour late, you are entitled to a minimum 20% refund on a single ticket
  • Compensation may not be paid in the event of vandalism or bad weather
  • Claims need to be made within 28 days
  • Compensation is usually paid in vouchers, valid for one year
  • Ten companies offer "delay repay," where compensation is available after a 30-minute delay

Source: RDG

"We want to see that passengers are treated fairly, receive the quality of service they pay for, and when this is not the case, can hold their service providers to account," said Anna Walker, the chairperson of the ORR.


But the industry defended its record.

"Compensation has become increasingly generous and easier to apply for in recent years," said Michael Roberts, the director general of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).

He said the amount of money paid out in compensation to passengers for train delays rose by £3m in one year alone, and that punctuality was improving.

In 2012-13, the RDG said more than 90% of trains arrived on time.

But it admitted that more could be done to help passengers know their rights.

Among them is the right to claim a refund when a train is cancelled or delayed. If you decide not to travel in such circumstances, you are entitled to all your money back.

If you decide to go ahead with the journey, and the train arrives late, you are still entitled to compensation.

Each operator sets its own rates, but passengers arriving one hour late are entitled to a minimum 20% rebate.

Code of practice

Earlier this week, the consumer group Which? found that customer satisfaction with Britain's train network was "shockingly low".

The survey of 7,000 passengers found that 11 of the 19 train companies it investigated had customer satisfaction rates of less than 50%.

The poorest operators were Greater Anglia and Southeastern, both of which scored just 40%.

The best operator was Merseyrail.

Graphic: Passenger satisfaction by rail company

The ORR said that later this year, it would introduce a new code of practice on ticket information.

The code will clarify information about fares and restrictions, as well as compensation and refund rights.

The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) has also developed a "toolkit" to help train companies make passengers more aware of how they can claim compensation.

At the moment, each train operator also publishes its own separate customer charter.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    The other day my train from manchester - home was cancelled due to poor weather. Bought my tickets online, so apparently I wasn't eligible for a refund from the station. After calling up the website (at 10p a minute, no e-mail support available!), I eventually found out had to take it up with the train operator directly. So I sent my tickets off by post, which the operator conveniently 'lost'!

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    I regulalrly claim for cancellations via delay repay' on line. Southeastern on the Maidstone line has had a particulalry bad service in the last 5 months. You do only get vouchers, but the delay repay system does work pretty well, and helps mitigate the 'being robbed' feeling when you are paying £4.5k for an annual season ticket. I have £140 in vouchers from the last few months....poor service

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    Voucher? So basically they give you a piece of paper rather than cash so it isn't actually costing them anything. After commuting 4 hours a day on the trains, the last thing I want to do is use a voucher to go on yet another train.

  • rate this

    Comment number 538.

    I had my last train cancelled from Chesterfield to Manchester and had to book a hotel overnight. I was told that my ticket would still be valid next day but not about claiming any compensation. Worse still, when I presented the ticket on the train the inspector threatened me with a fine before eventually conceding!
    Then I was accosted at Piccadilly like a common criminal before it got sorted again

  • rate this

    Comment number 535.

    Actually if your claim is done on-line it is not convoluted at all and usually the vouchers are received within a couple of weeks. These vouchers can be used towards a new season ticket. Admittedly if not a regular traveller then the vouchers are not much use and cash would be a much better option.


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