Commuting by rail is seldom pleasant, but is made far worse when your train is delayed - often seemingly for no reason whatsoever.
However, we don't just have to sigh and put up with it, because when the delays are over half an hour, you should be able to get compensation.
If your train is cancelled or delayed, then you should be able to get at least some of your money back.
All train companies have to sign up to the National Rail Conditions of Carriage, which means they have to offer at least 20% off if your travel is delayed by more than an hour (10% if you have a return ticket - unless you were delayed in both directions).
The good news is that under the franchise system, many of the train companies offered to refund more than this in an effort to win the franchise, so your refund will be more generous. In many cases you will get 50% off if you are any more than 30 minutes late, and double that if you are delayed for over an hour.
The bad news is that the same franchise system has created a situation where there are more than 20 different train companies operating across the UK - each with different policies on how much of a refund they offer, and how you have to go about making a claim.
The most generous are First TransPennine Express, Heathrow Express, Merseyrail, and London Overground - which all offer 100% compensation (or 100% of the relevant portion of a return ticket) after you are delayed for 30 minutes.
The majority of companies have the same standard offering: you can get a refund of 50% of the cost of a single or 50% of the relevant portion of a return if you are 30 minutes late - or 100% of the cost of a single or 100% of the relevant portion of a return ticket if you are over an hour late. The companies using this approach include Chiltern Railways, Cross Country, East Coast, East Midlands, First Capital Connect, First Hull Trains, Gatwick Express, Greater Anglia, London Midland, Scotrail, SouthEastern, Southern, Stansted Express and Virgin Trains.
Others take a different route. Arriva Trains Wales, for example, will offer 20% of the cost of a single and 10% of the cost of a return if you are delayed for 30 minutes, and 100% of the cost of a single or 50% of the cost of a return if you are delayed for over an hour.
And by far the most complex is First Great Western, where the policy depends on the route. On a high speed train service, after an hour you get 50% of the cost of a return and 100% of the cost of a single refunded. If you are delayed for more than two hours you will be compensated the full value of your ticket. On London and Thames Valley Services, if your journey is less than an hour and you are delayed by 30 minutes you receive at least 50% compensation. If your journey is more than an hour and you are delayed by more than an hour you receive 50% compensation. On regional services if you are delayed by an hour you will receive at least 50% of the cost of a single and 25% of a return.
The process of getting your refund varies too, from the companies which have long claim forms, to those which simply ask you to write a letter and send your tickets in. The various policies and claim forms are in the links below:
Arriva Trains Wales
Cross Country Trains
First Capital Connect
First Great Western
First Hull Trains