Could you claim compensation for train delays?

claim for train delaysPic: Getty

It's fair to say that Britain's railway system doesn't have the best reputation, and anyone who has ever commuted to work will be all too aware of the delays and cancellations that regularly blight their day.

In many instances, however, it is possible to claim compensation when your journey doesn't run smoothly. Despite this, a study by the Office of Rail Regulation revealed that 75 per cent of passengers are unaware of their rights in terms of compensation, and more than two-thirds fail to claim even when they are entitled. If you have fallen victim to a cancellation or delay, here's what you could be entitled to and how to claim.

When can I claim?
Though train operators vary in terms of how much and for what you can claim, for the most part even a one-off trip where there's a delay of 30 minutes or more means you're entitled to compensation.

For instance, if you decide against travelling because your train is cancelled or delayed, you should be able to get a full refund at the ticket office, though cheap advance tickets may be excluded. Should you go ahead with your journey despite a delay, you may be entitled to claim 20 per cent off the purchase price if the delay is more than an hour, or 10 per cent of each ticket of a return journey where you are delayed both ways.

However, as mentioned, what you can claim depends largely on the time you've had to wait and the individual operator, and compensation can range from the minimum 20 per cent of the ticket price, right through to a full refund on a return ticket. Either check directly with the operator themselves, or check the 'conditions of carriage', which can be found on the National Rail website.

If you are a frequent traveller with a season ticket, compensation may also be available. Some operators offer a Delay Repay scheme, whereby passengers have 28 days to claim compensation after a delay or cancellation, which generally offers a pro-rata refund based on the cost of your season ticket. Others will offer a discount off your next season ticket, and if your journey is split between two operators, you may be able to claim from each.

Oyster card holders are also entitled to compensation if a journey on the Underground is delayed by more than 15 reasons, provided it is for reasons within the control of Transport for London, though you'll have to wait 21 days for the claim to be processed.

Exceptions to the rule
Unsurprisingly, there are rules that mean you won't be able to claim in certain circumstances. Delays or cancellations resulting from acts or threats of vandalism or terrorism, suicides or passenger accidents, gas leaks or fires not caused by the train company, line closures requested by the police or emergency services, extreme weather conditions, riots, or mechanical or electrical failures not caused by a member of the train company are all deemed to be outside of the operator's compensation remit.

How to claim
Claiming compensation is rarely easy, and for many it seems such systems are designed specifically to dissuade people from making a claim. Step forward the very useful This independent website allows users to add delays to their online system, view claimable delays, and print off the claim form to send to the operator. It's free to join, and gives passengers an easy way to keep track of when and how they can claim. So don't sit and stew in silence - take action and get the compensation you deserve.

Have you ever claimed compensation from a rail operator? Tell us about your experience below...

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