Thousands of Southern Rail season ticket holders are on track to pocket a lump sum worth £100s after the rail operator agreed to refund passengers affected by "significant levels of disruption" last year.
If you travelled on the Southern network and held at least 12 weeks' worth of season tickets between 1 April and 31 December 2016, you may be able to claim a month's worth of travel back.
During this period, an average of almost 30% of trains were late or cancelled, with punctuality dipping as low 57% on the Southern mainline during one month.
Southern is currently contacting more than 39,000 passengers who are entitled to the lump sum payment, which in some cases could be worth more than £430.
But don't despair if the rail company doesn't get in touch – other season ticket holders who believe they are owed a refund will be able to apply once Southern has finished contacting everyone it has details for.
Who is entitled to the refund?
You need to have had 12 weeks' worth of season tickets between 1 April and 31 December last year AND your journey will need to have started or finished at a Southern-managed station – and/or a reasonable chunk of your journey must have been on the network.
You're entitled even if you've already claimed for individual delays via the Delay Repay scheme; if you bought your ticket from somewhere other than Southern; or if you're a Gatwick Express, Thameslink or Oyster card customer whose journey was to or from a Southern station; or a reasonable chunk of your journey was on the network.
You can't claim the lump sum for daily tickets, or for contactless journeys, but you can claim for individual delays. See our Train Delays guide for more info.
A statement on the Southern website says: "Due to the significant levels of disruption for much of 2016, we are compensating customers who have travelled regularly on the Southern network."
What will I get?
The amount you get will depend on the type of season ticket you bought, as there are different refunds for weekly, monthly and annual season ticket holders:
Annual or monthly season ticket – The cost of a month's travel back.
Weekly season ticket – The cost of four weekly tickets.
This would mean a Brighton to London zones 1-6 (any permitted) annual season ticket holder could be in line for a payout of £437, if they held the ticket for three months between 1 April and 31 December.
You can choose to be paid via a bank transfer, Visa debit or credit card payment, or as e-vouchers. There is a chance you could get more claiming via your credit card or debit card provider, so see below first.
How do I claim?
You need to look out for an email from firstname.lastname@example.org. The emails have been being sent since mid-January, and Southern is in the final stages of contacting everyone it has details for.
If you have the email – Click the link in your email and choose how you want your compensation to be paid.
If you've a letter – Some customers are being contacted by letter. If that's you, click this Southern rail link and apply for compensation. You'll need your email address, your password (which is in the letter) and your photocard ID number.
- If you haven't an email or letter – Once Southern has contacted everyone it has details for, it will open up its claims webpage to everyone else. This Southern page will be updated to say how you can claim. You'll be asked to send evidence of your season ticket, such as where the ticket was bought, the cost of it, a scan of your ticket or a bank statement.
Southern hasn't got a claims deadline for these passengers, but says it'll give 14 days' notice before closing the scheme. We'll update this story when we know more.
I heard a Southern customer claimed £2,400 – can I get more than a month's compensation?
Last month we heard from a Southern commuter who claimed a £2,400 refund from his card provider, American Express (Amex), for dire service.
Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act means your credit card provider is jointly liable with the retailer/seller if something goes wrong. For debit card payments there is a similar but less powerful scheme, called chargeback (which also has a much shorter time limit in which to claim).
In this case it is not clear which scheme Amex paid out under, and so far this is the only case of this type against Southern that we have heard of.
It's worth noting that this case doesn't set a precedent, and so there are no guarantees your card provider would cough up.
Technically the rules say you can't submit a Section 75 claim if you've already claimed compensation by another route, so claiming Southern's compensation lump sum could potentially stop you making a Section 75 claim at a later date.
You need to weigh up which route to take, as the payout could be bigger this way, but there are no guarantees you'll win. See our Train Delays guide for more information.
I've still got questions. Where can I get answers?
Southern has set up a full FAQs page, including more information for Thameslink customers and what to do if you think it's not got your refund amount right.
If you still have questions, there's a dedicated customer services team for this scheme that you can contact between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday, or 9am to 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. To get in touch, email email@example.com or call 0345 647 0745.