How to complain about your train journey

The number of us using public transport continues to rise and shows no signs of stopping. More pressure will be placed on the rail system whilst fares continue to rise at above inflation. 

The Government expects passengers to pay more of the costs of this service. Therefore it is increasingly important that we understand our rights. 

Passengers paid £7.7 billion in 2012 in fares, up 3.6% from the previous year. The Government now only pays £4.0 billion. With 3 million of us making train journeys every day, over 1.3 billion train journeys are made each year.

Whilst services are improving, there are over 32 complaints per 100,000 train journeys. 34% of complaints relate to punctuality of the train service.

The official rules

When you take a train, you purchase a ticket under the National Rail Conditions of Carriage and these are referenced on the ticket. However, I bet you have not read these. As we have summarised the T&Cs for you, why should you?
It is important to realise our information covers your basic rights. Some train companies (also known as TOCs) may offer you improved compensation.

One hour is key! If your train is more than an hour late then you are definitely entitled to compensation. As a minimum you are entitled to a refund of 20% of your single ticket and 10% of your return ticket. However, you can find the compensation can actually be as high as 50% for more than a 30-minute delay. If something does go wrong always remember to ask.

The bad news is your compensation will be in the form of National Rail vouchers, so you will be back on the trains again! You can choose any train company to use these with but they cannot be used for online train ticket purchases. Keep persisting and some companies will change these vouchers to a cheque refund.

If you are not satisfied

If you are not satisfied with the resolution then you have the right to escalate your case to Passenger Focus covering outside of London and London Travelwatch for London.

Be sure not to lose them as the company has the right to charge you up to a £10 administration charge. 

What about incidental costs?

If your train is delayed and you cannot get to your final destination, you can claim for hotel or taxi costs. However, you should make the stationmaster or train conductor aware of the situation. Be sure to take down their name in case you need to prove you gave them advanced warning.

Season tickets

The majority of customer journeys are with season tickets and the refunds are calculated based on the delay. For a weekly ticket if the delay is greater than 1 hour you are entitled to 20% of the ticket price divided by 7.

For monthly tickets it depends on the train company. If they operate the Passenger Charter scheme then your discount will be applied when you repurchase a ticket, if they fail to meet their charter levels. The alternative is the “delay and repay” scheme where you receive compensation every time the train is more than 30 minutes late. However, you need to make a claim.

Get out of jail for free

There are certain situations where compensation is not due. Train companies can avoid paying any compensation under the following circumstances:
  • Vandalism, suicide or trespassers on the line 
  • Line closure by Police of fire services 
  • Exceptional weather conditions
  • Unused train tickets

If you don’t use the train ticket 

Advance tickets are not refundable unless the train was delayed

Season tickets of more than one month you can get a refund on a pro-rata basis 

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