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60 seconds Tube Delays: How to get a refund

Tara and Rebecca | Edited by Steve N

Updated 12 Aug 2016

There are over 1.3 billion journeys on the tube each year. Yet if you're a regular commuter, you'll know travelling on the London Underground is often fraught with delays and cancellations. If that happens, you may be entitled to a refund. Here's how to claim it.

Also see our TfL Overcharge Refunds guide for how to claim if you couldn't touch out, and Oyster Card Refunds how to claim back credit if you have and old card.

How long do I have to be stuck on the tube for before I can claim? Delays on the tube can be fury-inducing, especially when they make you late. But if your journey is delayed by at least 15 mins, you don't just have to put up with it.

Whether you travelled using an Oyster card, contactless card or paper ticket, you can ask Transport for London (TfL), which runs the tube, for a 'service delay refund'.

To calculate the 15 mins, TfL looks at what time you touch in and out, then compares your journey time to the average.

Is that on every tube? Not exactly. TfL has rules about what's classed as a 'service delay'.

If you’re delayed for more than 15 minutes and for "reasons within TfL's control", then you can get a refund. This includes anything which is TfL's fault – for example, a defective train, faulty track or overrunning engineering work.

But it won't pay up if the reason doesn't count as something within its control, eg, adverse weather, security alerts or a person ill on the train.

In practice, however, we've found TfL is sometimes lenient with these rules, so it may pay up anyway. While there are no guarantees, it's usually worth a punt, as you may get a refund.

Brilliant... so is the process automatic? No. Sadly, TfL's not that nice. You'll need to apply for the refund.

  • To apply online, go to the TfL website and log in to your TfL or Oyster account (if you don't have an account, you'll need to sign up for free first). Click on 'Service Delay Refunds'. You'll be asked to provide your journey info and either your Oyster card or paper ticket details.

  • To apply over the phone, call TfL customer services on 0343 222 1234 (this costs the same as a normal 020 number). Give them the same information as mentioned above.

Don’t worry, you won't need to post paper tickets – you just need to enter some numbers from them. If the gate ate your ticket at the end of the journey, you should call customer services.

You have to claim within 28 days of the delay. TfL says it usually takes a couple of days and it processes 'most' refunds within seven days. It will email to tell you if your claim has been successful.

What about if I paid by contactless card or Apple Pay? Not a problem. Sign up or log on to a TfL account as above, and add your contactless card or Apple Pay account. You can register these before or after the delay. Then choose the contactless card/Apple Pay account, and click ‘Claim for a service delay’.

As an aside, you can track your journey history for contactless cards and Apple Pay accounts. Just click the account to see 12 months’ worth.

What can I get back? No matter how and what you paid for your journey, you'll get back the value of a single fare for the distance you travelled at the time you travelled. Even if you have to get off before you intended, the refund’s still based on where you touch in and out.

This applies even if you didn't pay full whack. Let's say you made the journey on a daily or weekly travel card – you'd still get the pay-as-you-go single fare back. If your journey started at peak time, it refunds the peak fare.

For example, if you were delayed when travelling during peak time from Balham to Bank (Zone 3 to Zone 1) using an Oyster card, you'd get £3.30. See the TfL website for full information on fares.

And how do I get it? You have a choice.

  • You can provide your bank details and get the refund paid into your account. (If you were travelling on a paper ticket, this is your only option.)

  • You can get the refund in the form of web credit in your online account to use next time you top up or buy a travel card online.

  • If you have an Oyster card, you can get the refund loaded back onto it as pay-as-you-go credit. This happens when you next touch in at a station of your choice.

The Oyster card needs to be registered before you can receive a service delay refund (you can still do this after the delayed journey).

What if my tube's delayed and I'm late for a flight or a concert as a result? Can I claim for that? No. TfL says it won't provide compensation for anything other than the delayed journey on services.

Can I get off the Underground and take another form of transport if my tube's delayed, but still claim for the delay? If it doesn't count as a 15-minute delay under the touch-in, touch-out rule, you could always call customer services and plead your case, but you're not officially entitled.

I'm not a fan of the tube – what if I'm travelling on another form of public transport in London? You might be in luck – many of the transport systems operated by TfL follow similar rules.

  • On the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) it works the same as on the tube – you can claim for a delay of more than 15 minutes if the cause is within TfL's control.

  • London Overground comes under National Rail’s conditions of carriage, so if a cancellation delays you by over 30 minutes you’re eligible for a refund (you must touch in and out).

  • On the Emirates Air Line, refunds are issued if you are delayed for more than 15 minutes.

For all the above, as with the tube, you can apply for a refund via the TfL website or by calling customer services on 0343 222 1234. Alternatively, if you're delayed on the Emirates Air Line, you can ask for a refund in person at the ticket office immediately after the disruption to your journey.

Sadly, if you're travelling on a bus, you simply can't get a service delay refund – no ifs, no buts. If you're travelling through London with another train operator, for example on Thameslink, you'll need to go straight to the train company to claim. See our Train Delays guide for a full how-to.

Ok, so I know how to claim a refund – but what if I want to complain about TfL? If you've complained to TfL but it still won't budge, a free online complaints tool can help.

Resolver* helps draft your complaint and manage it too. It's free, and offered by a firm called that we like so much we work with it to help people get complaints justice.

If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will automatically escalate it to watchdog London Travel Watch, which can ask to TfL to resolve your case. It doesn't have power to force TfL to do anything it doesn't want to do, though.

If all else fails, you could technically take your claim to court. Think carefully about whether you want the hassle of this, though, and whether it's worth it – far better to use this as a last-resort threat.