Unfortunately, delayed and cancelled trains are far more common in the UK than they should be. If you’ve been affected, you might be entitled to a 100% refund! Here’s how you do it…
Apparently two thirds of passengers don’t claim refunds for train delays – which is crazy considering how easy it is to do, and how much you could get back!
Even if you’re delayed by just 15 minutes, you could be owed cash – and the longer the delay, the more money you could be owed.
Rail travellers who are delayed frequently make back hundreds of pounds every year!
People often put off applying for refunds thinking it will be a long and complicated process, but it actually only takes a few minutes. The hardest part is wrapping your head around when you’re due a refund, and how much you could be owed.
Don’t worry though, this guide makes everything easier to understand, and we’ll tell you how much you could be owed, no matter which train operator you’re using…
When can you claim a train ticket refund?
It’s difficult to summarise exactly how refunds for delayed or cancelled trains work, as each train operator will have a slightly different policy.
Although customers are guaranteed a certain level of compensation through the National Rail Conditions of Travel, a number of train operators are also part of the Delay Repay scheme, which gives you even more rights.
Refunds for delayed trains
First things first: remember that if your train is delayed (or cancelled), you’re normally entitled to get on a different train in order to get to your destination on time. You can’t change your arrival station, but you could jump on a train from a nearby station if it works out quicker.
Just check with train staff beforehand, as you might not be able to switch trains if it involves travelling with a different train operator. If you do manage to get on a different train, you’ll still be entitled to a refund if you arrive over 30 minutes later than you were supposed to.
If your train is delayed and you decide not to travel – even if it’s only delayed for a few minutes – you’ll be entitled to a full refund. We’ve got more information on how you apply for these refunds below.
When working out the exact length of a train delay, it’s the time when you arrive at your destination, as opposed to the time that you set off, that counts. Plus, it doesn’t matter what kind of ticket you have – Advance, Off-Peak or Season ticket – you’ll still be able to claim a refund.
If your train operator is part of the Delay Repay refund scheme, you’ll be able to claim for delays of 30 minutes or more – and in some cases delays of 15 minutes or even less can get you a refund. Importantly, you’ll get a refund regardless of the cause of the delay, so it doesn’t matter if it’s the train operator’s fault or not.
However, if your train operator is not part of the Delay Repay scheme, they’ll have a different policy and this can vary across companies.
As a minimum, all train operators must provide a 50% refund if your train is delayed by 60 minutes or more, and if it’s their fault. Many train operators will be more generous than this though.
If the delay was caused by something out of their control, however, you might not be entitled to anything.
When is it classed as the train company’s fault?
All train companies who are part of the Delay Repay scheme will compensate you regardless of the cause of the delay.
However, train companies who are NOT part of the Delay Repay scheme (check the table below) will likely only provide refunds for delays or cancellations that are classed as ‘their fault’. But working out exactly what that means isn’t always easy.
The below table shows a few of the main factors which might cause disruption, and whether they’re classed as in or out of the control of train operators.
Most companies (apart from TfL), will provide refunds for trains cancelled or delayed as a result of strike action.
Trains refunds in Nothern Ireland
Everything in this guide applies to train companies operating in England, Wales and Scotland.
However, trains in Northern Ireland operate slightly differently. They offer their own Delay Repay scheme but it’s not quite the same as the one in the rest of the UK.
The length of delays that make your eligible for a refund is about the same, but instead of receiving a cash refund, customers receive train vouchers instead.
Refunds for cancelled trains
If your train in cancelled and you get on another train instead, the refund policy works the same as for delayed trains above – your refund will be based on how late you arrive at your destination.
If your train is cancelled (or delayed) you don’t get on another service (meaning you essentially don’t use your ticket), then getting a refund is pretty straightforward and you’ll be entitled to a full refund.
All you have to do is head to the ticket office at the train station, or apply for a refund through your train operator (usually either online or by phone).
If you bought your ticket through a third-party ticket service (like Trainline or RedSpottedHanky), you’ll have to return your tickets and a refund form to them, rather than the train operator – and pay the postage for it. Be aware that RedSpottedHanky charge a £10 admin fee, and Trainline won’t refund any booking or card fees.
However, if you’re a season ticket holder, things are a bit more tricky. You won’t be entitled to a full refund as your ticket is valid over a certain period of time, not just for specific journeys. Contact your train operator for full details – you might get a discount when you apply for your next ticket.
What happens if you miss your train?
If the trains are running fine, but you decide not to travel for whatever reason – either because you miss your train or plans change – you can sometimes still get a refund.
If you’ve bought an advance ticket (a ticket for a specific train at a set time and date) then you won’t be entitled to a refund.
However, if you bought another type of ticket, such as an Off-Peak or Anytime ticket, you could get a refund for unused tickets, but might be charged a £10 admin fee.
Train refunds for bad service
New laws now mean you might also be entitled to a refund for bad service.
Things like broken toilets, not enough seating, a lack of WiFi or no food and drinks facilities could all class as legitimate reasons for a refund or compensation.
Under Section 49 of the Consumer Rights Act, customers are entitled to ‘reasonable care and skill’. If you don’t receive this, you can contact your train company (referencing the Act), with details of your complaint and any evidence you have, such as photos, as well as the compensation you’re requesting.
There are no guarantees you’ll receive any compensation, but train companies are always looking to maintain their reputations, so there’s no harm in trying.
If they turn down your claim, take a look at your other options.
How much can you claim back?
As we’ve mentioned, how much you’ll receive if you make a successful refund claim all depends on whether your train operator is part of the Delay Repay scheme or not.
Currently 20 different train operators are on the scheme, and they’re all listed in the table below.
This is how much you’ll receive as a refund through train operators who are part of the Delay Repay scheme.
* Currently only nine train operators who are part of the Delay Repay scheme offer this. Check the table below to see which ones.
If you’re travelling with a train operator which is not part of the Delay Repay scheme, you’ll have to check their individual refund policy for exact numbers – we’ve listed them all below.
However, as a minimum you’ll receive a 50% refund on any train delays of 60 minutes or more that are caused by the train operator.
You most likely won’t be able to claim any compensation for losses incurred as a result of a delayed train – a missed flight or gig, for example – although you could give it a shot (you’ve got nothing to lose). However, we’d recommend getting travel insurance to cover these.
Season ticket holders
If you’re a season ticket holder, it’s much trickier to work out how much you’ll receive. Policies vary from company to company, so use our table below to check the details for yourself.
It’s important to note that the below only applies to season tickets of a month or longer. With a seven-day season ticket, you can apply for a refund as normal.
These are the most common compensation routes for season ticket holders
How to submit a claim for a train refund
Submitting a claim for a train refund is pretty easy to do, and will often only take a couple of minutes. This is everything you’ll need to submit a successful claim:
- The exact length of the delay – If you can’t remember, head to Recent Train Times which holds records of train arrival and departure times from the past three months. You need to get this right, as claiming the delay was longer than it actually was, even by only a few minutes, could make your claim void
- The reason for the delay – If you’re applying for a refund through a train operator which is not on the Delay Repay scheme, you need to make a note of the reason for the delay, to prove that it was caused by the train operator
- Your ticket – Either to send in the post or to submit a photo of. Ideally the ticket should be stamped to prove that you were actually on the train.
If you lose your ticket, most companies will accept an email proof of purchase or similar instead, but it’s not guaranteed. If you need to hand over your ticket to get through the barriers when you arrive at your destination, speak to a member of staff and explain you need to keep your ticket to make your claim, and they should be fine letting you through.
Most train company websites will have online forms for you complete, or you can request a refund form at your nearest train station.
If you bought your ticket from a third party company like Trainline or RedSpottedHanky, you apply for your refund through the train operator itself (so Virgin Trains as opposed to Trainline, for example). However, if you’re applying for a refund for a cancelled or delayed train that you did not travel on, you apply through the ticket provider instead.
Make sure you submit your claim within 28 days of the journey, otherwise you will no longer be eligible for a refund!
Submitting a claim for a delayed train online can take up to 28 days to process, although you’ll likely be refunded in a couple of weeks.
Refunds can come in the form of a bank transfer, cheque or a refund to your card (and in some instances, train vouchers if you would prefer).
Automatic train delay refunds
In a few select cases you might receive a refund for a delayed train automatically, without having to do anything at all.
- Virgin Trains (West Coast route) – Book an advance ticket online or via the app, and you’ll receive an automatic refund for delays of 30 minutes or more
- C2C smartcard holders – Automatic refunds are awarded for delays of 2-29 minutes
- TfL Train Reclaim – Link up your payment or Oyster card, and they’ll automatically submit refund claims on your behalf. Works for journeys on the London Underground, DLR, Overground and TfL Rail.
Refund policy by train operator
As we’ve mentioned, refund policies do vary across train companies – some are part of Delay Repay and some aren’t, some will refund delays of 15 minutes, while some will only provide refunds for delays of an hour or more.
To help you work out exactly how much you could be owed if you’ve been affected by a delayed or cancelled train, we’ve put together this handy table. Just search the name of your train company, and you can see at a glance the minimum delay time that will entitle you to a refund.
Follow the links for more information on each company’s individual refund policy, and to make your claim.
|Train company||Delay Repay?||Minimum delay length||How to claim|
|Yes||15 mins (2 mins for smartcard holders)|
|Yes||15 mins (services vary)|
What happens if your claim is rejected?
If you’ve read the above carefully and submitted a legitimate claim, you should be successful.
However, if your claim is rejected, make a note of the reason the train operator gives for declining your claim, and check all the small print to ensure you haven’t fallen foul of a rule somewhere along the line.
If you’ve checked everything and you think you’ve been rejected unfairly, there are a few other options available to you.
- Try shaming them on social media. Send a few angry tweets with screenshots and evidence, and if you get enough attention from the public, the company might step in to prevent any further damage to their reputation
- Take it to Transport Focus, the industry watchdog. They’ll assess your case, and are in a position to demand certain compensation if they think you’ve been ripped off. If you’re travelling in London you can contact London Travel Watch instead
- Take it to a small claims court. This should only be done in extreme cases and after careful consideration. The costs of this route could easily outweigh anything you would gain from winning the case.
How much have you managed to claim back in train delay refunds? Let us know in the comments!