Passengers who suffer a delay of just two minutes on train operator c2c's Essex to London line can now get automatic compensation.
From tomorrow, travellers on the train franchise who sign up to its c2c smart card – similar to the Oyster run by Transport for London – will be eligible for the money back at a rate of 3p per minute.
They'll earn 3p per minute for delays of between two and 30 minutes, so 84p for a 29-minute delay. Commuters who experience three 11-minute delays a week will get back 90p – or £3.60 a month – instead of nothing previously.
Once a train is more than half-an-hour late c2c's existing compensation rules will apply.
Money owed will automatically appear in the online c2c smart-card account after 72 hours and be paid in 'e-vouchers' on the 16th day of the month following the delay.
This can then be used to knock money off future ticket purchases or converted into cash once there is a minimum of £5 in the account.
No other train firm in the UK offers compensation for such small delays, only offering it for delays of 30 minutes or more, and most don't return money automatically.
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How does it work?
You can apply for a smart card or apply to swap your paper ticket on the c2c website.
The smart card should take about 14 days to arrive and you then register it and link it to an online c2c account.
Tickets can be bought online or at self-service machines at c2c stations but the card cannot be pre-loaded for pay-as-you-go travel, as you would with an Oyster. Instead you can load your season ticket or up to five tickets at a time onto the card.
You must then use the tap in, tap out system on the gates or c2c freestanding card readers (the same as you use with an Oyster) so that the train company will be able to calculate how many minutes the delay was.
c2c says customers who tap in but don't tap out won't get compensation as it will be unable to work out where they have got off a train and therefore if they have been delayed. The company adds that it use a train's arrival time into a station to judge the length of delay, rather than the time someone taps out.
Commuters will also be compensated if a c2c train is late to a station stop they get off at en route to its final destination, as long as they tap out there.
If passengers swap to a train run by a different company part way through the journey, the delay will be worked out from the time the c2c service arrives at its final destination, unless they tap out.
If a customer swaps to another c2c train part way through, the delay will be calculated using the final train journey details.
You will be able to check your compensation online and if you think it has been calculated wrongly, you can challenge it with c2c.
Anyone who was unable to catch the train they wanted due to problems such as station closures, and were therefore unable to tap in, would need to claim compensation through the normal delay repay system.
Why is c2c doing this?
c2c brought in smart cards as part of its new 15-year franchise agreement, which started in November 2014.
Realistically, c2c has launched the automatic delay-repay knowing that it has a very good punctuality record.
Latest figures, for January to February 2016, show 96.6% of c2c trains arrived on time, compared with the national average of 88.4%
The train operator says it has topped the punctuality tables three years running.
Will my train company do the same?
There seems to be a move toward automatic delay repay, with Virgin West Coast already offering it for delays of more than 30 minutes on its advance tickets which are booked via its website or app.
Most train companies currently only offer compensation for delays of 30 minutes or more, but this could change as new franchise agreements are made.
In the 2015 Autumn Statement the Department for Transport included a minimum 15-minute threshold for compensation in its four-year plan, but could offer little information about how the scheme would work.
The minimum threshold is currently one hour under the National Conditions of Carriage.