Rail delays: Passengers to get cash compensation

rail platform full of passengers Image copyright PA

Rail passengers who suffer travel delays can now claim refunds in cash instead of vouchers as new compensation arrangements come into effect.

The changes have been made after consumer groups criticised the vouchers, saying they could not be used online or to access cheap fares.

Passengers will be entitled to refunds if their train is delayed by at least 30 minutes.

Train operators said they wanted to give passengers "an even better deal".

Up to now most train companies have only offered travel vouchers as compensation - a system that has been in place for about 20 years.

David Mapp, commercial director at the Association of Train Operating Companies, said compensation for delays had "become increasingly generous and easy to apply for".

"Today's changes underline the industry's commitment to offering passengers an ever better deal, including how they receive compensation," he said.

"Train operators and Network Rail are working hard together to make more trains run on time but when things do go wrong we want to put it right."

Compensation varies between train companies but in general, passengers can claim a minimum cash refund of 20% of the cost of a single fare and 10% on a return fare if there was a delay on only one leg of the journey.

Claims must be submitted within 28 days of the delay.

Readers' experiences

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Nicholas Johnson, St Neots: It is a deliberately lengthy process to claim a refund. Fill out the form, send it off, get the form stamped at a ticket office etc. There have been times I have wanted to claim but by the time I get to the station it's closed so I cannot get it stamped, so I go home and forget about it.

Stephanie Mark, London: As a frequent traveller between London and Edinburgh for over three years, I managed to accrue a delay repay for almost every service I was on. Whilst a refund through vouchers was great for my travel needs, it did add additional hassle when they could only be used when buying tickets at the station. After about a year of delays, I also felt bitter about being forced to return to their company.

Lisa Howe, Maidstone: It's great that we'll finally get cash back from delays rather than vouchers. My thoughts have always been that my train ticket is my receipt - and therefore, if there are delays, I should get a monetary refund as I would if I'd bought a faulty product. The issue is that even delays of five-10 minutes cause inconvenience. The percentage of refund given still doesn't make up for the fact that you've had a poor service.

Andrew Leach, Eastbourne: One thing that Southern have done is make refunds easier - just as well given their record of service. They have always offered vouchers, but they have been exchangeable for cash at stations for a number of months. What's needed now is compensation for 10-minute delays during the week: the number of 30-minute delays has improved, but most journeys suffer more than five minutes delay.

'More improvements'

The change has been welcomed by passenger group Transport Focus, which has campaigned on the issue for some time.

However the group said it was still concerned that too few people claim refunds when their trains are delayed.

In a survey published in 2013, it found that 88% of passengers entitled to compensation did not bother to ask for it.

Rail minister Claire Perry said: "Passengers have told us that they want better compensation when their trains are delayed, and I am pleased that the industry has responded.

"This change is a positive first step but I am working with the industry to ensure more improvements are delivered as soon as possible."

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