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Train delays and cancellations: how to claim refunds and compensation

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Last updated on

04 July 2014

Train travel is expensive so if you're held up make sure you get a refund or compensation.

Getting a refund if you didn't travel

If a train is cancelled or delayed and you decide not to travel, you should be able to get a full refund by taking your unused ticket into the ticket office. The refund should come back in the form which you paid for the ticket but check the type of ticket as cheaper advance tickets may be excluded.

Compensation for delays or cancellations

When it comes to being delayed en route it’s a bit more complicated, which puts many people off claiming.

If your train is delayed you should, in most instances, be able to claim back some of the money you originally spent on the ticket.

The rules, or ‘conditions of carriage’, for operators are set by the National Rail Conditions of Carriage and can be found here. They are well worth taking a look at if you need to claim for any reason.

For delays the minimum amount you’re able to get is 20% of the ticket price and this is only if the train is more than one hour late. For return journeys, delayed both ways, it’s 10% for each ticket.

However, each train operator has its own rules on how much compensation you’re entitled to based on the number of minutes late your train is.

Train operators' compensation policies for one-off journeys

Train Operator

30-59 minutes late

60-119 minutes late

120 minutes+ late

Arriva Trains Wales

20% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

C2C

N/A

50% of single ticket or return ticket portion

50% of single ticket or return ticket portion

Chiltern Railways

50% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

Cross Country

50% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket price; 100% of return ticket price (i.e. both ways)

East Coast

50% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket price; 100% of return ticket price (i.e. both ways)

East Midlands

50% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket price; 100% of return ticket price (i.e. both ways)

Eurostar

N/A

Claim either discounted/complimentary tickets or a partial refund.

Free one-way journey, or 50% discount on a return journey.

Or 25% of one-way fare, or 12.5% of return fare.

Free return journey.

Or 50% of a one-way ticket/25% of a return ticket.

Delay of 300mins+ given a free return journey, plus a refund of single ticket or 50% of return ticket.

First Capital Connect

50% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket price; 100% of return ticket price (i.e. both ways)

First Great Western

Can claim only if journey is for one hour or less.

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

First Hull Trains

50% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket price; 100% of return ticket price (i.e. both ways)

First ScotRail

50% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

Greater Anglia

50% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

London Midland

50% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket price; 100% of return ticket price (i.e. both ways)

Northern Rail

N/A

50% of single ticket or return ticket portion

50% of single ticket or return ticket portion

Southern

50% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket price; 100% of return ticket price (i.e. both ways)

Southeastern

50% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticketor return ticket portion

100% of single ticket price; 100% of return ticket price (i.e. both ways)

South West Trains/Island Line

The full cost of a single ticket, on Island Line trains only.

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket; 50% of a return ticket

Virgin Trains

50% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket or return ticket portion

100% of single ticket price; 100% of return ticket price (i.e. both ways)

As you can see, payments can vary widely between operators. But in general, most delays over 30 minutes warrant some form of compensation, which is typically paid in the form of National Rail vouchers. These can be used with any company and last a year. You can either claim in a station or online, within 28 days, but this can occur a £10 administration fee, depending on the train operator.

Compensation for season ticket holders

There are different types of compensation available to season ticket holders depending on your train operator.

Some operate a 'Delay Repay' scheme, where you can claim back compensation within 28 days of the delay or cancellation and you will receive a pro-rate refund based on the value of your season ticket.

However, this scheme is only available with certain train operators, so check first. The table above contains link to all of the train operators' compensation web pages.

When it comes to Delay Repay most operators say you can get a refund "irrespective of what caused the delay" and as any ticket is valid, not just season tickets, you may have a better chance at getting some compensation.

Other operators will give you a discount when you come to renew your season ticket. This will be based on the overall performance of the train company and the percentage of its trains that were on time. If you receive compensation it should be around 5% of the total price paid. 

For journeys which are split between different operators, you'll only be able to claim compensation from one train company per season ticket.

Will I always be able to claim?

Unsurprisingly, there are quite a few instances where you won’t be able to claim compensation. These are as follows:

  • Acts or threats of vandalism or terrorism;
  • Suicides or accidents involving trespassers;
  • Gas leaks or fires in lineside buildings not caused by a train company;
  • Line closures at the request of the police or emergency services;
  • Exceptionally severe weather conditions;
  • Riots or civil commotion;
  • Fire, mechanical or electrical failure or defect (except when this is caused by a member of the train company).

Although this looks like a lot of exceptions, in reality many train operating companies will pay out in these circumstances so it's worth making a claim.

There are also lots of grey areas, such as for the weather to be defined as "exceptionally severe" other forms of transport will need to have been affected.

What if I get stranded?

In the past few years heavy snow fall has meant hundreds of train services have been cancelled. If this happens and you’re stranded miles from home, the train company should help you either get to your destination via alternative means such as buses or taxis, or pay for or reimburse you for overnight accommodation. 

But there's an exception – this will only happen if the circumstances are "within the control of the train company" so it won’t be automatic.

London Oyster refunds

In London you'll be able to get a refund for the price of a single journey if your tube is delayed by more than 15 minutes for reasons within the control of Transport for London (TFL). This won't happen if it's something such as a securty alert or bad weather conditions. Refunds take 21 days to process.

Is it worth claiming?

The system appears to be designed to try to dissuade people from claiming but websites such as Train Delays.co.uk are a handy free way to keep track of the whole process.

Ultimately, if you think you have a case you should submit a claim.

Earn money back on your travel spending with a cashback credit card

More on travel:

How to cut the cost of your train fare

The most expensive commuter towns and cities

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