Rail delays: How to get your money back
Claiming a refund for a delayed train journey is not straightforward. Perhaps that is why so few people bother to try, and why 30 million pay-outs a year go unclaimed.
Indeed, that is precisely why consumer body Which? filed a super-complaint.
Each train company has its own rules. So, if you want to make a claim, you first need to identify which category your train operator comes into.
There are three categories:
- Train companies that offer automatic refunds
- Train companies that are signed up to "Delay Repay"
- Train companies offering compensation under the Passenger Charter compensation scheme.
This is the easiest scheme for travellers. If passengers have bought an advance ticket online, and there is a delay of more than 30 minutes, they will be offered automatic refunds to their bank account.
The Virgin West Coast franchise was the first to offer this service, in October 2015. But there are several restrictions. Tickets must be booked via Virgin's own website, the ticket must be for a specified train, and journeys involving other operators are excluded.
The government is encouraging other operators to offer this automatic refund service. The Essex-based operator C2C launched a scheme in February 2016, and both Northern and TransPennine have promised to do so from April 2016.
Under the C2C scheme, those with smartcards linked to an online account get an automatic refund for delays as short as two minutes.
Govia Thameslink will offer automatic compensation in 2017 - again for those with a smartcard.
The big principle here is that travellers are due compensation whether the delay is the fault of the train operator or not. For example, if your train is delayed because of vandalism, snow, trespass or suicide, the operator still has to pay.
But unlike automatic refunds, passengers have to make a claim.
Under Delay Repay you are entitled to compensation each time your train is delayed for 30 minutes or more. But the government wants this to be reduced to 15 minutes.
The operators who have signed up to Delay Repay include: Abellio Greater Anglia, Govia Thameslink, Crosscountry, East Midlands, London Midland, Southeastern, Southern, First TransPennine Express (from April 2016), Virgin, Virgin East Coast, C2C, Northern (from April 2016), Great Northern, and Scotrail.
Passenger Charter Compensation Scheme
Companies offering compensation under this scheme usually only pay up if the delay was their fault. So if the delay is caused by severe weather, vandalism or a suicide, you may not get any money.
Some operators pay after a 30-minute delay, but others only pay after a delay of one hour. Passengers will have to look at the small print on individual websites.
How can I claim?
You must claim within 28 days of the journey. You will also need the ticket you used. This should be sent off, together with a form which is obtainable from station booking offices, or from the relevant operator's website.
Since the summer of 2015, you have been entitled to claim the refund in cash, rather than in vouchers, as was previously the case.
More details are available from Transport Focus.
How much money can I get?
This varies, according to the operator. But, for a one-hour delay, you are entitled to a refund of at least:
- 20% of the price paid for a single ticket
- 10% of the return ticket, where the delay is on just one leg of the journey
- 20% of the return ticket, if both legs are delayed
Can I get money back on a season ticket?
On weekly season tickets, you are entitled to a minimum level of compensation, if you have been delayed for at least an hour.
The rate is calculated as 20% of the price of the weekly ticket, divided by seven.
On monthly or longer season tickets, some companies that operate under the Passenger Charter Compensation scheme will only offer a discount off your next season ticket. But this may only happen if the performance targets for the particular service have not been met.
Those operating under the Delay Repay scheme offer compensation every time you are delayed for 30 minutes.