Rail delay payouts to be made by cheque on Virgin Trains
Delayed passengers on Virgin Trains are to receive compensation in the form of money back, rather than travel vouchers.
The operator is the first in the UK to make compensation payments automatically by cheque. This will apply to delayed passengers on the east and west coast.
Since July, all rail passengers have been entitled to request money back.
Virgin's move has been welcomed by consumer groups.
"Passengers are rightly frustrated by the significant barriers that exist when claiming compensation for train delays and cancellations, so it is good to see Virgin Trains setting the pace by offering cash as the default option for compensation," said Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?.
"We would urge all train operating companies to act quickly to implement this, and further changes, to improve the process for their customers."
Anthony Smith, chief executive at the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: "Passengers will be pleased to see Virgin Trains offering cash compensation as the first option. This is a positive step forward and we want to see more operators follow suit."
A system was launched in October whereby west coast travellers who buy Advance tickets through Virgin Train's website receive money directly on to their payment cards if they are entitled to compensation.
The latest move extends the compensation system to ensure all other delayed passengers are paid by cheque.
Compensation is based on the "Delay Repay" system, which is offered by around half of all train operators. Individual train companies offer different levels of compensation, but the best deals - including Virgin's - involve:
- up to a 50% refund on a single ticket for delays of between 30 minutes and an hour
- up to a 100% refund on a single ticket for a delay of between one and two hours
- up to a 100% refund on the cost of a return ticket for delays of more than two hours
Graham Leech, group commercial director at Virgin Trains, said: "We always want to be on the side of passengers. That is why we wholly support the move to offer cash compensation as a first option to customers and why we were the first operator to introduce automatic delay repay.
"We're committed to making claiming compensation simpler and clearer for customers. We never want passengers to suffer delays or disruption but when things do go wrong we want to put it right."
The announcement comes the day after rail passengers - including those on some Virgin Trains services - faced delays and cancellations across England after overhead electric wires stopped working in the Midlands. Services affected on Tuesday included routes to London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Wales and Southampton.
Some 5% of trains run by Virgin Trains were either cancelled, at least 30 minutes late or missed a scheduled stop in the 12 months to March 5, according to Network Rail figures. The average for rail firms across England and Wales is 3%.