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Passengers confused over rail delay compensation

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Tens of millions of pounds in compensation from train operators remains unclaimed every year as research reveals passengers find it too difficult to claim for delayed or cancelled journeys.

The independent transport watchdog, Transport Focus, said many train operators still have complicated and lengthy claims processes.

Plus, there’s a lack of consistency when it comes to compensation schemes offered by train operators and they need to do much more to communicate to passengers about their right to claim.

Figures revealed there were 1.4 million delay compensation claims closed by train operators between 21 July 2019 and 12 October 2019.

But Transport Focus research found just 35% of passengers who were eligible claimed compensation for their delayed or cancelled journey, meaning tens of millions of pounds in compensation remains unclaimed each year.

It also revealed just three in 10 people were alerted by train operators that they could claim compensation for delays and cancellations.

But the messaging about the right to compensation varied by train operator as Transport Focus said 60% of Virgin Trains passengers (now Avanti West Coast) were made aware while just 16% travelling on Transport for Wales were informed.

‘Passengers left in the dark’

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said: “Too often passengers are left in the dark about their right to claim compensation on a delayed train. It’s about time it was made easier for passengers to get what they are entitled to.

“Despite the promise of ‘one-click’ compensation only nine train operators currently pay out some form of automated compensation for delays and cancellations.

“It’s vital that train operators actively encourage passengers to claim, making it quick, easy and automated as soon as possible.”

In a bid to increase awareness of compensation, Transport Focus has launched a campaign across rail station billboards, in cinemas and via social media.

It is also calling for a standardised portal for claims, a quicker and easier compensation process, more automated compensation so passengers don’t have to fill in a claim in the first place, and for the government to name a date at which every passenger will be able to get ‘one-click’ compensation.

Delay repay Q&A

Q) What are the rules?

A) There are two different delay repay schemes – Delay 15 and Delay 30 – but both pay out irrespective of who, or what caused the delay. The length of the delay is what matters:

  • 15-29 minutes: 25% of the cost of a single ticket or 12.5% of a return
  • 30-59 minutes: 50% of the cost of a single ticket or 25% of a return
  • 60-119 minutes: 100% of the cost of a single ticket or 50% of a return
  • 120+ minutes: 100% of the cost of a single or return ticket.

Q) Do all train companies operate delay repay?

A) Transport Focus said not all operators use Delay Repay 15 with some franchises offering differing compensation schemes. As an example, Cross Country, ScotRail, LNER, Caledonian Sleeper and Hull Trains don’t offer Delay Repay 15, only Delay Repay 30. Grand Central will only pay compensation for passengers delayed by an hour or more.

Q) How do I claim?

A) The claim process depends on which train operator you travelled with which is why Transport Focus is calling for consistency, a streamlined claim process and automatic payment.

Generally, it will also depend on how you paid for your journey, such as whether you have a railcard or season ticket, or if you paid via your mobile or with a contactless bank card. Season ticket holders will have to work out their daily travel cost first.

Q) Is there a time limit to make a claim?

 A) Yes – typically 28 days.

Q) How long does it take to get my money back?

 A) Based on figures from Q2 in 2019/20, 98% of delay compensation claims were closed within 20 working days.

Q) What if my train is cancelled or delayed but I hadn’t paid for the journey?

 A) If you can see your train is delayed or cancelled before tapping in or buying a ticket, you can still claim if you subsequently proceeded with your journey and were delayed at the end destination.

However Transport Focus said you wouldn’t be eligible if you made an alternative journey via another means of transport.