Your browser isn't supported
It looks like you're using an old web browser. To get the most out of the site and to ensure guides display correctly, we suggest upgrading your browser now. Download the latest:

The MoneySaving Forum: join to chat & swap tips with other MoneySavers. Learn how in the Forum Introduction Guide

Train Delays

How to claim if it's late or cancelled

Get Our Free Weekly Email!

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes - join the 10m who get it. Don't miss out

Megan F | Edited by Steve N

Updated September 2016

train point

Leaves on the line, freezing tracks and signal failures are all too common on our railways. But a whopping 80% of passengers don't claim for their train delays, meaning millions of pounds are being left in the hands of the fat controllers.

This guide has everything you need to get your money back, including what you're owed, how to claim in just a few minutes and what you can do if your train's cancelled.

We've just given this guide a major update... Please give us feedback and suggest improvements in the Train Delays forum.

'I claimed £315 for a year's delays' – some inspiration before you begin

two year's worth of train delaysIt can often be tempting to let train delays slide, but make no mistake – there can be big money in reclaiming, especially for frequently delayed commuters, who can rack up £100s in a year. Take Andy, for example, who tweeted us these pictures of two years' worth of claims. In 2015 he got £315 and he usually tops at least £250 annually.

... and they may pay out even if you're not entitled

Many have reported successfully claiming even when they're not strictly entitled to a refund – the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train companies, says firms often pay out even when they don't have to.

Some have also found that if they've had a particularly poor journey and submitted a complaint along with their delay, the amount they get has been upped or even doubled.

My train company doubled the amount of compensation after days of delays due to flooding, which was a nice surprise – and once I was sent a £50 voucher for a complaint that took months to be answered. - MSE Megan

Train delay need-to-knows

The specific rules around train delays can appear baffling at first, especially because each individual train operator has its own refund policy (see a full list of train firms' polices below). But don't be put off – claiming's straightforward when you know how.

What's 'Delay Repay'? Throughout this guide we talk about 'Delay Repay' – rail-company jargon for the simplified compensation scheme which most firms now run. It means you can claim for delays of 30 mins or more regardless of cause. See more on Delay Repay below.

The following need-to-knows apply if your train's been delayed or cancelled and you still want to travel. If you don't want to travel, see How to get a full refund.

Delayed? You can usually use your ticket to hop on another train, but check

hopp train

If the train you're booked on is delayed you should be able to get on a later one or take a different route, though it's important to check with station staff if you're unsure, as there may be some exceptions – particularly if the alternative route is run by a different train company.

For example, if you're travelling from London Euston to Birmingham and your train's delayed, it might be quicker to go from Marylebone instead. You won't be able to go to a different destination, but you may be able to speed up your journey by changing the route.

Alternatively, if you've already bought your ticket but decide not to travel, see How to get a full refund below.

Quick questions

What if I miss a connection because my train's delayed?

What if I paid for a first class seat, but can't get into first class on a replacement train?

If it's jam-packed, can I sit in first class even if I don't have a first class ticket?

What happens if I can't get home?

Most can claim for a delay of 30 minutes or more regardless of cause

30 minutes

When determining how long the delay was, what counts is when you GET to your destination, not when the train LEFT.

You'll need to claim from the train company which was running the delayed service, even if you booked via a different site.

The type of delay you can claim for depends on whether the train company runs a Delay Repay scheme (which means it pays out regardless of whether the delay was its fault), or a less-generous old-style compensation scheme.

  • Under Delay Repay you get compensation for delays of 30+ mins regardless of fault

    Most train companies now operate the Delay Repay system, including:

    • Abellio Greater Anglia
    • c2c
    • CrossCountry Trains
    • East Midlands Trains
    • Great Northern
    • Northern
    • ScotRail
    • Southeastern
    • Southern
    • Thameslink
    • Transpennine Express
    • Virgin East Coast
    • Virgin Trains

    See the table below for the minimum refund you'll get.

  • Without Delay Repay it depends on the train firm – a few only let you claim for 60+ min delays if it's their fault, most are more generous

    Some train companies don't currently operate a Delay Repay scheme. With these firms, the rules are less clear-cut, so it's important to check the full list of train firms' polices below.

    The bare minimum that train companies have to do is set out in the National Rail Conditions of Carriage, which detail train travellers' rights and where those rights may be restricted. Firms only have to start paying out for delays of at least an hour, and only if the delay was their fault.

    See what officially counts as the train company's fault.

    It's important to note that these rules set out the bare minimum, and most companies which don't offer Delay Repay will still give you more than national rules stipulate.

If you need to double-check the length of your delay, you can try using the Recent Train Times website, which gets its data from Network Rail, though this doesn't necessarily mean the train firm will agree. Select the stations you were travelling between, and in the arrival time box, "average and actual times".

You should get at least 50% of your fare back

refund half

Regardless of whether your company uses the Delay Repay scheme or the old-style compensation, the minimum you should get back for a valid delay is 50% of the fare (or fare for that leg of the journey if you have a return ticket). But with a few companies which don't use Delay Repay, you'll need to wait longer than 30 mins before compensation kicks in.

Here's the minimum you'll get for a company which uses Delay Repay:

The minimum you'll get with Delay Repay
Delay Minimum you'll get back for a delay
30-59 mins 50% of single fare back
60-119 mins 100% of single fare back
120+ mins 100% of single or return fare back
Season tickets
(30-59 mins)
Proportionate: 1/20th of weekly ticket, 1/80th of monthly ticket, or 1/928th of annual ticket
Season tickets
(60+ mins)
Proportionate: 1/10th of weekly ticket, 1/40th of monthly ticket, or 1/464th of annual ticket

If the train company's not using a Delay Repay scheme, the bare minimum it has to offer according to the National Rail Conditions of Carriage is set out in the table below.

The minimum refund you'll get without Delay Repay
Ticket type Minimum refund for 60+ min delay
Single ticket 50% of the fare back
Return ticket with delay on either outward or return journey 50% of the relevant portion of the fare back
Return ticket with delay on both outward and return journey 50% of the fare back
Season ticket Depends on firm's passenger charter

Remember though, most of those that don't do Delay Repay will still offer more than the minimum, so see the full list of train firms' polices for details.

You can claim for delays on almost all ticket types

If your train's delayed it's usually possible to claim regardless of whether you've an advance, off-peak or season ticket.

The amount you'll get will be a percentage of how much you paid for the original ticket, and for most season ticket holders this will be worked out as a proportion of their weekly, monthly or annual ticket cost.

There's one exception though – some season ticket holders who travel with a firm on the old-style compensation scheme can't claim for individual delays, and instead will automatically get money off for overall poor performance throughout the year, when they renew their season ticket. Check your train company's policy for more details.

You should be paid by cheque not voucher

cheque

Most train companies now pay compensation for train delays via cheque rather than rail vouchers by default.

However, if your ticket's with Great Northern, Merseyrail, Northern, ScotRail, Southeastern, Thameslink or Transport for London (TfL), you'll need to make clear you want cash or a cheque rather than vouchers. There should be a tick box on the delay form, but if not write it on there. (In some cases these firms may send you vouchers which you can then exchange for cash at the ticket office – if so, check if there's a time limit.)

From 1 October there are plans to ensure that you get compensation via the same method you used to buy your ticket, and we'll update as soon as we know more.

Make sure you claim within 28 days

The National Rail Conditions of Carriage say that all claims must be made within 28 days of the delay so make sure you meet the deadline. In practice the easiest thing to do is claim as soon as possible while you still have the ticket and all the details to hand.

Most companies WILL pay out for strikes

There seem to be strikes galore at the moment, with those travelling on Southern very much affected.

But don't think a strike means the company won't pay out if you face a delay. If the company operates a Delay Repay scheme, and you're delayed at least 30 minutes, it'll pay out regardless of what caused the delay.

Southern has even set up a special strike compensation page for its passengers.

You can't claim for other losses

Unfortunately the National Rail Conditions of Carriage explicitly state that in the event of train delay or cancellation, firms won't cover any consequential losses – for example, if you've wasted theatre tickets or missed a flight.

Of course, you could always try to claim anyway, or explain what happened to the company running the event you were visiting to see if it can help. You could also see if you're covered under travel insurance if you're on holiday.

Don't want to travel? Get a full refund

If your train's delayed or cancelled and you decide NOT to travel, the rules are much simpler (unless you're a season ticket holder):

If, after you've bought your ticket, you find your journey is going to be delayed (by any amount of time) or cancelled, you can ask for a full refund if you don't want to travel.

It's important to note that so long as you're not travelling on a season ticket, this rule applies even if your train's delayed only by a couple of minutes and you decide not to travel. Point 26a of the National Rail Conditions of Carriage says:

If the train you intended to use is cancelled, delayed or your reservation will not be honoured, you decide not to travel and at that time you return the unused ticket to any ticket office, the train company responsible for that ticket office will, wherever possible, give you an immediate full refund.

To get a refund for your unused ticket, you can head to a ticket office, call the train company or fill out a form online.

The rules are different for season ticket holders

Unfortunately with a season ticket you've fewer rights if your train's cancelled – you can't just decide not to travel and get a full refund. That's because your ticket isn't for a specific time and so it's assumed you'd be able to get on the next available train, though of course if you do that and end up being significantly delayed you can still claim. Check your train company's policy for full details.

A small number of companies, such as Arriva Trains Wales, which still operate the old-style passenger-charter compensation, may declare a "void day" in cases of serious disruption, which may mean you get a discount on your next season ticket.

Quick questions

What if I booked via a third-party website?

What if I'm halfway through my journey?

What if I'm travelling on an open ticket and my train's cancelled?

What if I'm stranded? Is the train company obliged to help out?

If I take another form of transport because my train's cancelled, will the train firm pay?

The trains are running fine, but I've now decided not to travel. What are my options?

How to claim – do it in less than 5 minutes

5 minutes

While the rules around refunds for train delays are complicated, submitting your claim is straightforward and quick to do. Just follow these five steps:

  1. Look up the train company running the service and find out how much you can get back. (See below for individual firms' policies.)

  2. Make a note of the delay and the reason for it. Fill in the claim form (you can find it online or request one from the station or by phone).

  3. Keep hold of your tickets – you'll need to scan them if applying online or post them to the train company.

  4. Apply within the time limit, typically 28 days (but check – it might be less).

  5. Passenger Focus
  6. If you're rejected for compensation or a refund but still think you have a case, complain – see more on what to do if your claim's rejected, including going to the watchdog Transport Focus, below.

Quick questions

What if I've lost my ticket?

How can I keep my ticket to claim a refund if I need to hand it in at my arrival station?

Can't I just return my tickets at the station for a refund?

I've bought my tickets online and haven't picked them up yet. How can I claim?

What if the ticket's from a third-party website?

Are train delay apps which charge or take a cut worth it?

Refund policies by train company

Click on each firm below to read its refund policy in full, including how much it offers for different kinds of tickets. These policies may change from time to time, so always check – we last updated this list in August 2016.

Remember: there's no harm in asking for more compensation, especially if the consequences of the delay were severe. This is just the minimum each company offers.

Abellio Greater Anglia Abellio Greater Anglia @greateranglia

Arriva Trains Wales Arriva Trains Wales @ArrivaTW

c2c c2c @c2c_rail

Chiltern Railways Chiltern Railways @chilternrailway

Cross Country CrossCountry @crosscountryuk

East Coast Trains Virgin Trains East Coast @Virgin_TrainsEC

East Midland East Midlands Trains @EMTrains

FGW (High Speed) Great Western Railway – High Speed (Formerly First Great Western services)@FGW

FGW (London & Thames Valley) Great Western Railway – London & Thames Valley (Formerly First Great Western Link services) @FGW

FGW (Regional) Great Western Railway – Regional (Formerly Wessex Trains services) @FGW

First Hull Trains Hull Trains @Hull_Trains

Grand Central Grand Central @GC_Rail

Grand Central Great Northern (formerly First Capital Connect) @GNRailUK

Island Line Island Line Trains @NRE_Island_Line

London Midlands London Midland @LondonMidland

London Midlands London Overground @LDNOverground

Merseyrail Merseyrail @Merseyrail

Northern Northern @northernassist

Scot Rail ScotRail @ScotRail

South West Trains South West Trains @SW_Trains

Southeastern Southeastern @SE_Railway

Southern Trains Southern @SouthernRailUK

TFL Rail TfL Rail @TfLRail

Southern Trains Thameslink (formerly First Capital Connect) @TLRailUK

Transpennine Express Transpennine Express @TPExpressTrains

Virgin Trains Virgin Trains @VirginTrains

Claim rejected? What to do next

Unfortunately there's no ombudsman for the train network. Unlike financial services or telecoms companies, no official body is in place to deal with complaints or force a train company into action.

So if you've submitted a claim and it's been turned down, your options are limited – but you can try the following.

Complain directly to the train network

Complain directly

If you're not happy with how your application for compensation has been handled, go directly to the train company in the first instance. Complain in writing, quoting the guidelines laid out in its passenger charter.

To do this you can use the free online complaints tool Resolver*, which will help you draft and manage your complaint. Or you can download our template letter, which you can adapt and post or email to your train company.

Escalate your complaint to Transport Focus

If you've sent your letter of complaint and the reply isn't up to scratch, you can try Transport Focus. It's an independent passenger watchdog which can take up your complaint and demand a proper response on your behalf.

If your complaint is about a journey within London and its surrounding areas, you'll need to escalate your complaint via London TravelWatch. You can check its map to see if your journey falls within its boundary.

It promises to look at every complaint sent, and it's more likely to be listened to than an individual passenger. However, it's a watchdog, not an ombudsman, and it has no actual power to force a train company to pay out if it's in the wrong.

Transport Focus also publishes past complaints data, so you can check how your train company is performing.

Use social media to shame the firm into action

Social media can be a good tool for getting in contact with a train company if other channels aren't working – and you might be able to use it to shame it into a response, or even get your money back. Several MoneySavers told us they use Twitter to give feedback and get up-to-date travel info from their train companies.

The train brakes "dropped" after a bang and a group of us clubbed together online to obtain a refund for the one-hour delay. - Nick

@eastcoastuk were very helpful when there were probs with a trip to Leeds & advised me. - Wendy

I always get a very prompt (and pretty helpful) response from Northern Rail. - Jacqueline

All else failed? You could try going to court – but only in extreme cases

If you're still not able to resolve your complaint, the only other avenue open to you is the small claims court. But this is only for exceptionally rare circumstances – in fact, we've never heard any examples of passengers going down this route, and neither has Transport Focus.

For more info – including likely costs – see our Small Claims Court Guide. If you do have success with this route, please let us know.