22 Jan 2019

Train delays and cancellations – know your rights

Stuck waiting on a platform? Train broken down half-way? Find out whether you can get compensation or a refund.

(Information in this article applies to England, Scotland and Wales.)

Getting help if you’re stranded

Stuck somewhere? Find out if the delay is the train company’s fault. This includes issues caused by:

  • Signal failure
  • Problems with track circuits or overhead lines
  • Broken railway tracks

It doesn’t include issues caused by things like:

  • Vandalism, terrorism and riots
  • Accidents caused by trespassing
  • Extremely bad weather

If the train company is to blame, then all train companies – not just the one you’re travelling with – must help out if they can (within reason). This means getting you to your destination and providing overnight accommodation if you need it. You might even get a cushy taxi ride for free.

Getting a refund if you decide not to travel

If your train is delayed by even a few minutes, you can cancel your travel plans and ask for a full refund. This applies to all tickets (including advance ones) but not season passes. Here’s how to do it:

If you just bought a ticket from the ticket office

Return the ticket to the same place and ask for your money back. They should be able to refund you there and then.

If you bought the ticket in advance or online

Apply for a refund from the company that sold you the ticket – you can usually do this via their website within 28 days. You may need to wait around a month for your application to be processed. After that, you’ll get the refund within 14 days if your claim is approved.

Getting compensation if your train is delayed

If you arrive at your destination late, you may be able to get compensation. This is money paid by the train company to say sorry for the delay.

According to the National Rail Conditions of Travel, train companies must compensate you if:

  • You’re late to your destination by 60 minutes or more
  • And the delay was the train company’s fault

Luckily, train companies are usually more generous than this. Many use a national scheme called Delay Repay – this pays out for any delay over 30 minutes, no matter what the cause. Here’s how it compares:

Length of delay Minimum requirements (under the National Rail Conditions of Travel) Delay Repay    
    Single ticket Return ticket Season pass
15-29 minutes No compensation required 25% of the ticket price 12.5% of the ticket price 1/40th of one week’s cost
30-59 minutes No compensation required 50% of the ticket price 25% of the ticket price 1/20th of one week’s cost
60-119 minutes 50% of the cost of the delayed portion of the journey (unless you have a season pass, in which case the train company’s conditions apply) 100% of the ticket price 50% of the ticket price 1/10th of one week’s cost
120 minutes or more 100% of the ticket price 100% of the ticket price 1/10th of one week’s cost  

A few train companies still rely on their passenger’s charter to set out conditions for compensation. These are often less generous than Delay Repay and may treat season tickets differently.

How to claim compensation for a train delay

Make a note of key information – including the time you arrive at your destination and the reason for the delay (which should be announced in the station or on the train).

Keep your tickets – you may need to explain this to staff at the ticket barrier, who should stamp your ticket instead of taking it.

Visit the train company’s website – this should tell you whether you’re entitled to compensation and how to apply for it. You normally need to scan your tickets or return them by post.

Apply for compensation within the time limit – this is usually 28 days from the day you travelled, unless the train company says otherwise.

Note that a few train companies offer automatic compensation. This is usually just for season ticket holders with smart cards.

If you can’t get compensation

Turned down by Delay Repay or a passenger’s charter? You may be able to make a claim under the Consumer Rights Act instead – for example if:

  • The delay was a lot longer than your journey (e.g. a 5-minute journey took 15 minutes)
  • The service was very poor (e.g. you reserved a seat but didn’t get one)
  • The delay made you lose out on something you spent money on (e.g. a connecting flight)

You can start off by complaining to Transport Focus, which is an independent watchdog for transport passengers in the UK.

Next, learn about your rights when a flight is cancelled or delayed.

And for more tips on how to save money, head to Monzo Money Tips👇

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