Train travel is not only a heavily relied upon staple in the lives of British commuters, but it’s also an excellent way to see the majority of the UK quickly and comfortably.
But, like all methods of transport, journeys can be prone to delays and cancellations. In these scenarios, it helps to know the best way to handle the situation, as well as your consumer rights. Check out our handy guide below to make sure you’re not left perplexed on the station platform.
Ahead of Travel
Firstly, be aware of current news and events which may affect your journey. Learn of any planned strikes, and use useful websites such as the BBC’s transport planner to check the status of your journey before you leave.
Just enter your transport location and click the train image to see relevant info. And if you already know the specific provider that you’ll be travelling with, check their website as well which will also give information on possible delays.
Cancellations or Deciding Not to Travel Due to Delays
The first bit of good news is that if your train is cancelled or delayed and you choose not to travel, you can claim a full refund on the cost of your ticket.
The bad news is that an alternative form of transport is likely to be more costly, the expense of which is extremely unlikely to be covered by the train company. If a train company has given notice of possible hindrances to travel, such as engineering works, compensation is not likely to be available.
As with all refund or compensation claims you must ask for them; they will not be offered to you without you enquiring.
You can claim refunds in the above case either on the day or within 28 days of the date you would have travelled. On the day, simply take your ticket to the ticket booth where, by law, you must be refunded.
Alternatively, you can post your unused ticket to the transport provider within 28 days including all necessary contact details for yourself. Ask a station conductor for details of where to post, or find out via the train company’s website. Make sure you keep any proof of postage.
If you are Delayed but Still Travel
If your service is delayed but you still decide to travel, you may be entitled to some compensation. The amount is dependent on the transport provider for the service, however, under the National Rail Conditions of Carriage a minimum entitlement is available.
Providing the delay is for a minimum of an hour you can claim back 20% of the value of a single ticket, 10% of the affected leg of a return ticket, or 20% of a return ticket if both legs of the journey are delayed. For compensation to be available the train provider must have been responsible for the delay.
Situations which are out of the providers control, such as severe weather, vandalism or having to halt service on the request of the authorities, do not entitle passengers to compensation.
Again, this can be done on the day or must take place within 28 days of the travel date. Train companies will often offer compensation in the form of National Rail vouchers which are valid for a year.
Compensation in other forms – such as cash – can be requested, but few companies offer this. Cash is usually only offered in situations requiring a full refund.
If a train provider has any compensatory program in place it is most often the Delay/Repay scheme which covers any kind of delay (even ones that are out of the train companies control) and offer compensation from a delay of half an hour onwards.
Firstly, check with a representative of the transport provider or on their website to see if they offer Delay/Repay compensation. If they do, further instruction for how to claim will be given.
Compensation and Reimbursement of Other Costs
In extremely rare cases – such as being left stranded due to an issue that can be deemed to be the train companies fault – you may be able to claim back costs for taxi fare and/or accommodation.
However, if possible always check (either in person at the station or via the train provider’s customer services) whether these will be covered ahead of making any purchase. Keep all receipts.
According to the Transport for London (TFL) Conditions of Carriage, passengers are entitled to claim compensation if they are delayed for longer than 15 minutes. Again reasons for delays must be within the transport provider’s control (strike action does not fall into this category).
You can claim via the TFL website here and must do so within 14 days. Compensation is offered in vouchers and can take up to 21 days to process.
Which.co.uk offers this handy Train Delay Tool to help work out how much you could be entitled to. They also provide a handy template letter for use when contacting a train provider.
If your journey involves air travel, we have a guide to flight cancellations and consumer rights here. Additionally, check out our guide to bus delays and cancellations here to ensure you’re fully in the know.