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Rail passengers waiting over six weeks for season ticket refunds

Some rail passengers have waited six weeks or more for refunds on their season tickets, according to a new survey from the transport watchdog. 

The survey of almost 700 season ticket holders found that of the 161 passengers who had claimed refunds while not travelling over the lockdown period, over a third hadn't yet been refunded. Only half were satisfied with how their refund claim had been handled. 

In March, transport secretary Grant Shapps promised that anyone unable to use their season tickets due to travel restrictions would be refunded to make sure "no one is out of pocket for doing the right thing". 

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train firms, says operators are processing refunds as quickly as they can.

Over 109,000 season tickets were refunded between 17 March and 14 May – meaning more refunds have been paid over two months than in all of 2019, when 79,000 season tickets were refunded.

However, Transport Focus, the independent transport watchdog, says firms should improve the way they communicate with passengers about the refund process. Sixty per cent of the passengers it surveyed hadn't been kept informed on how long their refunds would take.  

See our Coronavirus Life-in-Lockdown guide for more on transport and refunds during the pandemic. 

How can I get a refund on my season ticket? 

If you have a season ticket that you're not currently using due to the coronavirus restrictions, you should be able to get a partial refund for the unused bit. 

You can apply for a refund as long as you have at least three unused days on a seven-day ticket, or at least seven days unused on a monthly or longer season ticket. Some firms have waived the usual £10 admin fee for this – though double-check with your operator. 

You can backdate this refund for up to eight weeks from submitting your refund claim (or whenever you last used it, if that's more recent). 

You can also claim refunds for season tickets that have now expired, though the RDG says this may take slightly longer to process as the value of your refund will need to be calculated manually. 

All train operators have put systems in place so that people can claim refunds remotely and are now asking everyone who is claiming not to visit a ticket office.

To claim a refund, go to the website of the operator or company you bought the ticket from.

What does the watchdog say? 

Anthony Smith, Transport Focus chief executive, said: "While the majority of passengers have received a refund, six weeks on from applying, others are still out of pocket and in the dark.

"Operators must reassure passengers on how long they can expect their refund to take and when they can realistically expect to see the money back in their bank account."

What do the train firms say? 

Jacqueline Starr, chief operating officer for the RDG, said: "Train operators are working hard to process an unprecedented number of refunds as quickly as possible and in the last two months over 109,000 season tickets have been refunded, which is more than the entirety of last year.

"We thank people for their patience as refunds are processed during these exceptional times and we have doubled the number of staff processing refund claims, extended the claims period to eight weeks and are backdating refunds."

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