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Train Delays

How to claim if it's late or cancelled

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Megan F | Edited by Steve N

Updated June 2018

train point

Train delays, sadly, are an occupational hazard for millions - and it's been worse in the past month for many due to widespread delays and cancellations caused by a major timetable shake-up.

Incredibly, two-thirds of passengers don't claim for delays, meaning millions of pounds are being left in the hands of fat controllers. This guide shows you what your rights are and provides full help on how to get your money back.

Affected by the recent botched timetable changes? It's been acutely painful recently for millions who use Great Northern, Northern and Thameslink after new schedules went horribly wrong. The Government's said there'll be extra compensation for those hit though we don't yet have full details - see the latest on this plus how you can claim now in our Extra compensation scheme MSE News story.

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

It 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.

two year's worth of train delays

... 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 15+ in some cases, or in one case even 2+) regardless of cause. See more on Delay Repay below.

The following need-to-knows apply in England, Scotland and Wales (we've more on Northern Ireland below), 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.

If after getting a different train you still arrive 30+ minutes late you should be able to claim for a delay. 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 regardless of cause (and some even for 2+ mins)

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, within 28 days of the delay.

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 regardless of fault

    Most train companies now operate the Delay Repay system, and while the current threshold is a delay of 30+ minutes, a threshold of 15 minutes is being introduced between now and 2020. So far nine companies have brought the new limit in (see below) – here are all the companies that operate Delay Repay:

    • Abellio Greater Anglia
    • c2c (15-minute Delay Repay, also offers 2+ mins Automatic Delay Repay for smartcard holders)
    • Caledonian Sleeper
    • CrossCountry Trains
    • East Midlands Trains
    • Gatwick Express (15-minute Delay Repay)
    • Great Northern (15-minute Delay Repay, 15-minute Auto Delay Repay for smartcard holders)
    • Island Line (15-minute Delay Repay)
    • London Northwestern Railway (15-minute Delay Repay)
    • Northern (30-minute Automatic Delay Repay with advance tickets booked online)
    • ScotRail
    • Southeastern
    • Southern (15-minute Delay Repay)
    • South Western Railway (15-minute Delay Repay)
    • Stansted Express
    • Thameslink (15-minute Delay Repay, 15-minute Auto Delay Repay for smartcard holders)
    • TransPennine Express
    • Virgin East Coast
    • Virgin Trains (30-minute Automatic Delay Repay with advance tickets booked online)
    • West Midlands Railway (15-minute Delay Repay)

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

  • For other firms without Delay Repay it depends on their rules – 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 Travel, 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.

Use a clever tool to check how long you were delayed for

If you need to double-check the length of a recent delay in order to claim, you can try using the nifty Recent Train Times website. It gets its data from Network Rail (though this doesn't necessarily mean the train firm will agree) for routes in England, Scotland and Wales (though it doesn't cover the London Underground).

Its data goes back three months, but remember you need to claim for delays within 28 days.

Simply select the stations you were travelling between, when you want data for and in the arrival time box, 'average and actual times'. It'll then show you when trains running then actually arrived. Watch our video for more.

You'll usually get at least 50% of your fare back

refund half

Regardless of whether your company uses Delay Repay or the old-style compensation, the minimum you should usually 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). On some Delay Repay routes, 25% compensation for delays of between 15 and 29 minutes is now being introduced.

With a few companies which don't use Delay Repay, you'll need to wait longer than an hour before compensation kicks in.

Here's the minimum you'll get for a company which uses Delay Repay (see the full list above of those which do):

The minimum you'll get with Delay Repay
Delay Minimum you'll get back for a delay
15-29 mins 25% of single fare back (1)
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
(15-29 mins)
Proportionate: 1/40th of weekly ticket, 1/160th of monthly ticket, or 1/1856th of annual ticket(1)
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
(1) Currently only available on c2c, Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Island Line, London Northwestern Railway, Southern, South Western Railway, Thameslink and West Midlands Railway.

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 Travel is set out in this table.

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, even if you haven't got a ticket for a specific train

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 that uses 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 can claim cash or a cheque not just vouchers

Passengers now have more choice over how their compensation is paid.

On 1 October 2016, the National Rail Conditions of Travel, which set the minimum standards that train companies must abide by, were updated.

They now say passengers must be offered at least one form of monetary compensation for a delay, such as a bank transfer, cheque or refund to your card, although companies can still offer rail vouchers as well.

Where the delay was caused by the train company you also have the additional right to ask for a refund via your original payment method.

You can now try to use the full clout of the law to claim for delays or shoddy onboard service

no seats

Passengers now have another string to their bow if they suffer shoddy service when on the trains. Since October 2016, the Consumer Rights Act has applied to the rail industry, meaning you have more rights if things go wrong – but this is still new so there's no guarantee of success.

In a nutshell, this means your train company should provide its service with "reasonable care and skill" – and if you've bought a ticket since 1 October 2016 and think the firm's failed to do this, you can complain and quote the Consumer Rights Act.

This opens up the possibility of a broader range of claims than was previously allowed under the passenger charter and Delay Repay schemes – it could include complaints such as lack of seating, broken toilets or more minor delays. Info you're given about a service by the train firm should be binding too – eg, if it promised you Wi-Fi for the entire journey but didn't deliver, you could have a claim. To try this:

  • Contact the train company directly and quote the Consumer Rights Act. If you're arguing about poor service, quote the relevant section of the act (likely to be Section 49 – 'reasonable care and skill'). Explain what you're asking for (ie, a new ticket or a refund) and include any evidence or additional information you think is needed, such as pictures or tweets about the issue.
  • If the company refuses your claim... you can try to escalate it to an industry watchdog, such as Transport Focus, or an alternative dispute resolution scheme, if the company directs you to one it is signed up to.
  • If your claim's still turned down, your only option is going to court. This would probably be the small claims court, but you'll have to weigh up whether it's worth it. See our Small Claims Court guide for more info.

It's worth noting too that the law only covers situations that are within the train company's control – and currently there's no clear definition of what exactly "reasonable care and skill" means.

But while this is relatively uncharted territory and we haven't seen many successes yet, some are now having luck with this kind of complaint - eg, Marjorie emailed: "Complained about a member of staff and was given an open first-class ticket."

Quick question

What can you ask for under the Consumer Rights Act?

'I got £2,400 back on my Southern Rail season ticket' – can you claim via your card firm?

A disgruntled Southern Rail commuter who successfully used credit card protection to claim back half his season ticket cost after poor service was all over the news at the start of last year.

trains money back

Card provider American Express agreed to the commuter's claim, which argued that as 50% of his trains had been delayed or cancelled he wanted a partial refund. See the Southern Rail passenger gets £2,400 refund MSE News story for more.

Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if you buy something costing between £100 and £30,000 and pay for it in part, or in full, with your credit card, your card provider's jointly liable with the retailer if something goes wrong.

If you paid via debit card, there's an alternative scheme, chargeback, which asks for money from the supplier's (in this case the train company's) bank. Chargeback's a customer service promise, not a legal requirement though, and claims must usually be submitted within 120 days.

Banks can sometimes choose to pay out via the chargeback scheme, even if you originally submitted a Section 75 claim, and it's not entirely clear if that's what happened in this case. Either way, if you paid on a credit card, try making a Section 75 claim first, as it's more powerful protection.

How to try to claim

Technically the rules say you can't submit a Section 75 claim if you've already claimed compensation by another route. However this is untested, so it could still be worth submitting a claim even if you've had compensation for individual delays from your train company. Here's what to try:

  1. Gather evidence. The stronger the evidence of the amount of delays you have, the better. The Office of Rail and Road has train delay data back to 2010, and your train company should have some data on its site.
  2. Work out how much you're asking for. The commuter requested a 50% refund because that's the proportion of his trains that were delayed, so you could follow this model.
  3. Contact your credit card provider. Ask for a Section 75 claim form. You may need to explain why you want to claim – use our Section 75 refunds guide for help.
  4. Submit your claim with all your evidence. Include every scrap of evidence.
  5. If refused, you can appeal. The Financial Ombudsman can overrule the decision. For how to appeal see our Section 75 guide.

The method is similar for a debit card claim, but you must have tried to claim from the train company first. And if that fails you need to call your bank card provider and say you want to dispute the transaction. See our Chargeback guide for more info.

Got a season ticket? Check if you're due even more at renewal

Most season ticket holders (who've bought a month's or more travel) will be able to claim for individual delays, although some unlucky ones can't – see the full list of train firms' polices below.

However those with a monthly or annual season ticket may also be able to claim free travel or a discount when they renew their ticket, if they've experienced what is known as 'sustained poor performance'. For example, MSE's editor-in-chief Jason got £100+ from South Western Railway.

The exact definition of this varies by train company (check below), but it's usually defined as something like 12 delay claims in a period of 20 working days, or if overall punctuality falls below a certain target.

If you think you may be eligible to claim, you can check train delay data for the past three months using the Recent Train Times tool, or if you need to go back further you can use the Office of Rail and Road tool (but it can be a bit clunky).

Some firms will automatically offer the discount if you renew your ticket within a certain number of days, but for others you will need to contact customer services. Contact your train company if unsure.

Most companies WILL pay out for strikes

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.

It's worth noting though that TfL doesn't pay out for delays caused by strike action.

You may struggle to claim for other losses

The National Rail Conditions of Travel 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. But it does say that companies will consider exceptional circumstances.

So it could be worth trying to claim anyway, or explaining 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.

In Northern Ireland? The rules are different

Train delay refunds in Northern Ireland are handled differently to in the rest of the UK. The National Rail Conditions of Travel don't apply here (though the Section 75 and Consumer Rights Act rules do).

Confusingly Translink, which runs NI Railways, offers its own 'Delay Repay' scheme, but it doesn't work the same way it does in England, Scotland and Wales.

Although the thresholds for delays are pretty much the same, compensation is paid in vouchers and you won't have the option of claiming cash instead. Crucially, you also CAN'T claim regardless of cause - Translink won't pay out if the delay is caused by security alerts, crime, extreme weather or anything outside its control.

See the Translink refund policy below for more information.

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 Travel 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 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 (if you can't remember the length of the delay, use the Recent Train Times tool). 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 of 28 days.

  5. 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.

Most season ticket holders can claim for individual delays, but the rules vary and it's also worth checking if you can claim for continual delays. See season ticket rules.

Quick questions

I've heard some companies give compensation automatically, do I need to do anything?

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 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 from single to season tickets. These policies may change from time to time, so always check – we last updated this list in June 2018.

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

Caledonian Sleeper Caledonian Sleeper@CalSleeper

Chiltern Railways Chiltern Railways @chilternrailway

Cross Country CrossCountry @crosscountryuk

East Midland East Midlands Trains @EMTrains

Eurostar Eurostar @EurostarUK

Grand Central Grand Central @GC_Rail

Gatwick ExpressGatwick Express@GatwickExpress

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

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

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

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

Heathrow Express Heathrow Express@HeathrowExpress

First Hull Trains Hull Trains @Hull_Trains

Island Line Island Line Trains @SW_Help

London Northwestern Railway London Northwestern Railway @LNRailway

London Midlands London Overground @LDNOverground

London Underground London Underground @Tfl

Merseyrail Merseyrail @Merseyrail

Northern Northern @northernassist

Scot Rail ScotRail @ScotRail

South Western Railway South Western Railway @SW_Help

Southeastern Southeastern @SE_Railway

Southern Trains Southern @SouthernRailUK

Stansted Express Stansted Express @Stansted_Exp

TFL Rail TfL Rail @TfLRail

Southern Trains Thameslink (formerly First Capital Connect) @TLRailUK

Transpennine Express TransPennine Express @TPExpressTrains

Translink Translink @Translink_NI

East Coast Trains Virgin Trains East Coast @Virgin_TrainsEC

Virgin Trains Virgin Trains @VirginTrains

West Midlands Railway West Midlands Railway @WestMidRailway

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.

Formally complain directly to the train company

Complain directly

If you're not happy with how your application for individual delay 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.

No luck? 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.

Have you used this guide to claim for a train delay? Please give us feedback and suggest improvements in the Train Delays forum thread.


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