UK

Millions unclaimed in rail compensation watchdog claims

Transport Focus says that million of pounds went unclaimed in rail compensation last year
Image caption Transport Focus says that million of pounds went unclaimed in rail compensation last year

Train running very late? Time to claim some cash under your rail firm's Delay Repay Scheme.... if you've heard of it.

A survey suggests just 31% of passengers say they are alerted by train operators that they are entitled to compensation when delayed.

The figures were released by rail watchdog Transport Focus, who surveyed 2,000 customers to check how many were made aware of their right to a payment.

The watchdog estimates tens of millions of pounds go unclaimed every year.

Most train companies offer compensation under a scheme called Delay Repay - although there are a small number of firms offering alternative arrangments.

Customers' chances of being alerted to their right to compensation varied between operators. Virgin Trains, which has now been replaced by Avanti West Coast, led the way with 60% of customers saying they were made aware of their rights.

By contrast, just 17% of those travelling with West Midlands Trains and 16% of Transport for Wales passengers reported that they had been made aware of their entitlement to make a claim by the operators.

More than a fifth of those polled said that they would never claim compensation for train delays, while 46% responded that they "couldn't be bothered" making the claim where a ticket cost £5 or less. Others reported negative previous experiences and confusion over the claims process as reasons for failing to make a claim.

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Image caption 60% of Virgin Trains passengers were made aware of their right to compensation

Rail companies paid out £79m in compensation in 2018/19, down 2.1% on the preceding 12 months. However, the figure has trebled since 2014/15.

The amount of compensation passengers are entitled to is based on the type and cost of the ticket held, the operator involved and the length of delay. Under the Delay Repay scheme used by most firms, payments can be claimed after a 15-minute delay.

The report was released ahead of the launch of the watchdog's "Make Delay Pay" awareness campaign, to encourage people to claim the money they are entitled to.

Among the schemes proposed by the group is a wallet function that would allow smaller payments to accumulate and be redeemed at a later point, or the option to "swap" compensation for complimentary tickets.

Image caption Just 35% of passengers affected by delays claimed compensation last year

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said that all too often customers are still left "in the dark about their right to claim compensation".

"Despite the promise of 'one-click' compensation only nine train operators currently pay out some form of automated compensation for delays and cancellations.

"It's vital that train operators actively encourage passengers to claim, making it quick, easy and automated as soon as possible."

Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at industry body the Rail Delivery Group, echoed calls for increased co-operation across the rail industry to help streamline the claims process.

"We want passengers to get the compensation they're entitled to and the industry is working together to encourage more people to claim and make the process easier.

"More train operators are offering automatic compensation and raising awareness of Delay Repay with announcements on trains, notifications on Facebook messenger and email reminders."

The report comes during a turbulent time for the rail industry that saw besieged operator Northern Rail stripped of its licence by the government after yeas of major disruption.

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