Getting a refund for a delayed or cancelled train

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Finding out that your train isn’t going to turn up when you expect it to is frustrating. The process for getting a refund for a delayed or cancelled train depends on the scheme you’re claiming under.  Find out what the rules say and whether you can claim from your credit card company.

Getting a refund for a delayed or cancelled train

If your train journey has been cancelled or delayed, you may be eligible for compensation. There are two different schemes that you may be able to claim compensation under. One is called ‘delay repay’ and the other is compensation under normal conditions of carriage.

  • Delay repay: This let you claim 100% of the cost of your single ticket if you arrive at your destination more than one hour late. If you’re between 30 minutes and an hour late, you’ll be able to claim 50% of the cost of a single ticket. If you’re more than two hours late you’ll be able to claim 100% of the cost of the return journey. It doesn’t matter why you’re claiming a refund – the train company has to pay up. The only exception is if it’s due to planned engineering work.

SAVVY TIP: From December 11th you’re able to claim 25% of the cost of the train journey if the train is more than 15 minutes late and you’re travelling on Govia (Great Northern) Thameslink or Southern trains. In the future, as franchises are replaced or as the government is able to do a deal with individual train companies more companies will offer compensation for delays of more than 15 minutes.

  • Compensation under ‘conditions of carriage’. Here you normally have to be delayed by at least 30 minutes to qualify for compensation. The amount of compensation you’ll get may vary between train companies. You can’t normally claim for delays if it is caused by things such as vandalism, terrorism, someone trespassing on the line or severe weather as well as planned engineering works.

If your train is on an emergency timetable

If your train company decides to run an emergency timetable, the delay to your journey is based on the emergency timetable, not the time your train would have arrived if a normal timetable was running.

How the refund will be paid

Some companies used to try and pay refunds in vouchers for future journeys. These days you’re supposed to have more choice about how you’re refunded. You can normally get your refund in some or all of the following:

  • National Rail voucher – this should be cashable if you exchange it at a ticket office of the train company that gave it to you, otherwise it can be used for future train journeys within the expiry period,
  • a cash voucher – not all train companies issue these and those that do may impose an expiry date of just a few months,
  • a cheque,
  • a refund on your credit or debit card,
  • a bank transfer,
  • a payment via Paypal,
  • an e-voucher if you have an online account.

SAVVY TIP: As I write this least one train company couldn’t give refunds onto MasterCard cards, only Visa debit or credit cards.

How do you claim a refund?

The key part is to make sure you claim your refund within 28 days of completing your journey. If you miss this deadline, you won’t be entitled to compensation.

SAVVY TIP: As I write this, two train companies (C2C and Virgin West Coast) do automatic delay repay refunds for Advance tickets, which means you don’t have to claim the refund yourself. As long as you’ve registered your card details with them and they have contact details for you, the payment will be made automatically.

If the train company has signed up to Delay Repay, there will be information about how to claim on their website.

Rail companies signed up to Delay Repay

Here are the links to the claim section of the websites of train companies signed up to Delay Repay. Unless I’ve said differently, all companies will pay out if you’re delayed by more than 30 minutes.

C2C If you have a C2C Smartcard, you’ll automatically get compensation if your train is delayed by more than two minutes. The website doesn’t say how quickly you’ll receive your compensation if you’re not using the automatic claim facility.

East Midlands Trains  Normally pays compensation within 14 days but, as I write this, says it’s taking up to 20 working days.

Gatwick Express You can claim compensation if your train is delayed by a minimum of more than 15 minutes. It aims to pay refunds within 20 working days.

Great Northern Thameslink You can apply for compensation if your train is delayed by more than 15 minutes. You should get a response within 20 working days.

Greater Anglia You should get a refund within 14 days of the company agreeing your claim.

London Midland  You can fill in an online form. It doesn’t say how quickly refunds will be paid.

Northern Trains You can fill in an online form. It doesn’t say how quickly refunds will be paid.

Scot Rail The website seems to imply you’ll be paid by vouchers, although elsewhere it does say there are different ways you can be given the refund.

South Eastern Trains As I write this, South Eastern Trains says that it aims to provide a response within 16 working days, but it looks like this is longer than normal.

Southern Trains If your journey was on December 11th or later, Southern Rail will pay refunds if the delay is more than 15 minutes. In addition, the government announced on December 2nd that season ticket holders would be able to claim the equivalent of one month’s travel as a one-off payment. You must have been travelling with Southern Rail for three months to qualify.

SAVVY TIP: Southern Rail says it has the details of most season ticket holders and it plans to contact them directly about the refund. However, there are details of the scheme on Southern Rail’s website.

Stansted Express  The company says that it will soon be able to pay refunds automatically if you’ve booked an advance ticket and the company has your contact and payment details registered.

TransPennine Express It aims to process refunds within five working days and repay them within 14 days. Like many train companies, its website says it’s experiencing a ‘high volume of correspondence’.

Virgin Trains You can get an automatic refund if you’ve bought an advance ticket through Virgin Trains or an app. Otherwise you can fill in an online form. It has a nifty compensation calculator on the website.

Virgin Trains East Coast It aims to process claims within 28 working days.

Train companies not signed up to Delay Repay

Train companies that haven’t signed up to Delay Repay have refund policies covered by their conditions of carriage.

Arriva  You can claim compensation if your train was delayed by more than 30 minutes. You can download a claim form and you’ll have to upload a photo of your train ticket or other proof of travel (booking confirmation). If you prefer, you can write to the company.

Caledonian Sleeper You can claim compensation if your train was delayed by more than 30 minutes.

Chiltern Railways You can fill in the online form and you have to provide a photo showing your train ticket cut in half diagonally, unless it’s a season ticket. It says it aims to respond within 10 days but it may take longer.

Grand Central You can claim compensation if your train is delayed by more than an hour. It aims to pay refunds within 10 working days.

Great Western Railways You can apply for compensation if your train is delayed by 30 minutes or more for London and Thames Valley services. For other services you have to be delayed by over an hour to claim compensation. Be aware that GWR says it normally pays by cheque so you’ll have to let them know if you want your compensation paid differently. The website doesn’t tell you how quickly you’ll get your refund.

Heathrow Express You can get compensation of 50% of the cost of your Heathrow Express ticket if your train is delayed by more than 15 minutes and of 100% of the cost if it’s delayed by more than 30 minutes. You’ll be refunded by the primary method you paid.

Hull Trains You can get compensation if your train is delayed by more than 30 minutes. You can fill in an online form. The train company’s website says it aims to pay refunds within 14 days of your claim being agreed. However, as I write this, it says it’s dealing with a large number of claims so that’s being delayed.

London Transport and London Overground You can get a refund if your journey is delayed by more than 30 minutes if it’s a train journey or 15 minutes if it’s a tube or DLR journey.

Mersey Rail If your journey is delayed by 30 minutes or more, you’ll get back the entire cost of the single journey or 50% of the cost of a return ticket. You can fill in the online form and you should get your compensation within 14 days of your claim being agreed.

SouthWest Trains You can generally claim if your journey is delayed by more than 60 minutes, although there are some circumstances where you can get compensation if the delay is more than 30 minutes.

Claiming for additional expenses

It’s up to the train company whether or not it will pay extra expenses such as the cost of a taxi or of theatre or concert tickets if you can’t get to something you’ve planned. There’s no legal requirement for them to do this.

Claiming from your credit card company

You may be able to claim from your credit card company. There’s more information on how to do this in Understanding your credit card rights under Section 75.

Useful links

Transport Focus has a useful guide to what you might be entitled to.

Related articles:

What ombudsman schemes are there? Who can you complain to?

When can you get flight delay compensation?

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