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Student Travel

How to get refunds for train delays and cancellations

Train delays might seem like a major pain in the backside – but they have some surprising perks. Here's how to get up to 100% refunds in compensation for train delays and cancellations.

Man at train station with clock and ticket

Credit: DrimaFilm, nakaridore, dennizn, Ruslan Grumble – Shutterstock

Train delays and cancellations might be very annoying, but you could actually be owed some cash for them – and the longer the delay, the bigger the refund you can get.

Along with the discount from your 16–25 Railcard, you can end up paying very little (if anything) for your train journey if it's delayed.

In this guide, we'll explain how to apply for refunds using Delay Repay, the amount you could be owed and (the best bit) how to potentially get a full refund if your train is severely delayed or cancelled – even if you ended up completing the journey in full.

Tired of expensive rail tickets? Try out our tips for getting cheap train travel.

What is Delay Repay?

If your train operator is part of the Delay Repay compensation scheme, you'll be able to claim for delays of over 30 minutes, or even delays of 15 minutes or less with extra generous companies.

Importantly, under Delay Repay, train operators will refund your ticket, whether the delay's their fault or not – except in the case of planned engineering works.

If your train operator is not part of the national Delay Repay scheme, they'll have a different policy and this can vary across companies.

As a minimum, all train operators must provide a 50% refund if your train is delayed by an hour or more and the delay is their fault.

But, if the delay was caused by something out of the train line's control and they're not part of the Delay Repay scheme, you may not be entitled to anything.

Train compensation in Nothern Ireland

Everything in this guide applies to train companies operating in England, Wales and Scotland.

However, trains in Northern Ireland operate slightly differently. They offer their own Delay Repay scheme which is slightly different from the one in the rest of the UK.

The length of delays that make you eligible for a refund is about the same, but instead of receiving a cash refund, customers receive train vouchers instead.

When are you entitled to a train ticket refund?

Dwight the office success

Credit: NBC

These are the most common reasons for getting train tickets refunded:

  • Your train's delayed or cancelled and you decide not to travel – You'd be entitled to a full refund
  • The train's delayed for over 30 minutes for a reason they could have prevented – The amount you're entitled to have refunded depends on the train company's policy.

When is a delay the train company's fault?

All train companies who are part of the Delay Repay scheme will compensate you regardless of the cause of the delay.

However, train companies who are NOT part of the Delay Repay scheme (check the table below) will likely only provide refunds for delays or cancellations which are classed as 'their fault'. But working out exactly what that means isn't always easy.

The below table shows a few of the main factors which might cause disruption, and whether they're classed as in or out of the control of train operators.

Factors in the train company's controlFactors out of the train company's control
Overhead line problemsExceptionally severe weather
Broken or damaged tracksSuicides or accidents
Signal failureLine closures requested by emergency services
Points failureFires or gas leaks in buildings at the side of the tracks
Telecoms failureActs of vandalism or terrorism

Most companies (apart from TfL), will provide refunds for trains cancelled or delayed as a result of strike action.

Refunds for cancelled trains

Brighton train station

Credit: Irina Palei – Shutterstock

If your train is cancelled (or delayed) and you don't get on another service (meaning you don't use your ticket), then getting a refund is pretty straightforward and you'll be entitled to a full refund.

When your train is cancelled and you get on another train instead, the refund policy works the same as for delayed trains – your refund will be based on how late you arrive at your destination.

All you have to do is head to the ticket office at the train station, or apply for a refund through your train operator (usually either online or by phone).

However, if you're a season ticket holder, things are a bit more tricky. You won't be entitled to a full refund as your ticket is valid over a certain period of time, not just for specific journeys. Contact your train operator for full details – you might get a discount when you apply for your next ticket.

Train ticket refunds for poor service

New laws now mean you might also be entitled to a refund for bad service.

Things like broken toilets, not enough seating, a lack of WiFi or no food and drinks facilities when you'd been promised them could all class as legitimate reasons for a refund or compensation.

Under Section 49 of the Consumer Rights Act, customers are entitled to 'reasonable care and skill'. If you don't receive this, you can contact your train company (referencing the Act), with details of your complaint and any evidence you have, such as photos, as well as the compensation you're requesting.

There are no guarantees you'll receive any compensation, and you'll need to provide a strong case of why you didn't receive the level of service they promised (e.g. you had to stand despite reserving a seat).

But, train companies are always looking to maintain their reputations, so there's no harm in trying.

If they turn down your claim, take a look at your other options.

What happens if you miss your train?

facepalm Star Trek

Credit: Paramount Pictures

If the trains are running fine, but you decide not to travel for whatever reason – either because you miss your train or plans change – you can sometimes still get a refund.

If you've bought an advance ticket (a ticket for a specific train at a set time and date) then you won't be entitled to a refund.

However, if you bought another type of ticket, such as an Off-Peak or Anytime ticket, you could get a refund for unused tickets, but might be charged an admin fee.

Other refunds

  • If you paid for a first-class ticket, but you weren't able to claim a first-class seat for whatever reason (the carriage was full, for instance), then you'll be refunded the difference between a standard and first-class ticket as a minimum
  • If you're stranded as a result of a train delay (for example, you arrive in London too late to catch the Tube home), the train operator will likely provide free transport such as taxis.
If you're fed up of train delays, why not try using coaches to travel the country instead? We've got the lowdown on cheap coach travel.

How much money can you reclaim?

toy train

As we've mentioned, how much you'll receive if you make a successful refund claim all depends on whether your train operator is part of the Delay Repay scheme or not.

This is how much you'll receive as a refund through train operators who are part of the Delay Repay scheme.

Length of delayRefund amount
15–29 minutes25% of fare*
30–59 minutes50% of fare
60–119 minutes100% of fare
120 minutes+100% of single fare or return ticket

* Not all train operators who are part of the Delay Repay scheme offer this. Check the table below to see which ones do.

If you're travelling with a train operator who is not part of the Delay Repay scheme, you'll have to check their individual refund policy for exact numbers – again, you can find them below.

As a minimum, though, you'll get a 50% refund on any train delays of 60 minutes or more that are caused by the train operator.

You most likely won't be able to claim any compensation for losses incurred as a result of a delayed train – a missed flight or gig, for example – although you could give it a shot (you've got nothing to lose). However, we'd recommend getting travel insurance to cover these.

Season ticket holders

If you're a season ticket holder, it's a lot trickier to work out how much you'll receive. Policies vary from company to company, so use our table below to check the details for yourself.

It's important to note that the below only applies to season tickets of a month or longer. With a seven-day season ticket, you can apply for a refund as normal.

These are the most common compensation routes for season ticket holders:

  • The train company may declare a 'void day' – you'll then be refunded the value of this day when you renew your ticket or it expires
  • If certain performance targets have not been met over a period of time, you may get an automatic refund when you renew your ticket – regardless of whether you've actually been affected by delays or not.

Refund policy by train operator

Train companyDelay Repay?Minimum delay lengthHow to claim
 c2c trains
c2c
Yes15 mins (2 mins for smartcard holders) Claim refund »
 Caledonian Sleeper trains
Caledonian Sleeper
Yes30 mins Claim refund »
 Chiltern railways
Chiltern railways
No30 mins Claim refund »
CrossCountry train refunds
CrossCountry trains
Yes30 mins Claim refund »
 East Midlands Trains refunds
East Midlands Trains
Yes30 mins Claim refund »
 Eurostar refunds
Eurostar
No60 mins Claim refund »
 Gatwick Express train refunds
Gatwick Express
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 Grand Central train refunds
Grand Central trains
No60 mins Claim refund »
 Greater Anglia refunds
Greater Anglia
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 Great Western Railway refunds
Great Western Railway
Yes15 mins (services vary) Claim refund »
 Great Northern train refunds
Great Northern
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 Heathrow Express refunds
Heathrow Express
No15 mins Claim refund »
Hull Trains refunds
Hull Trains
No30 mins Claim refund »
 Virgin East Coast refunds
LNER
Yes30 mins Claim refund »
 London Northwestern refunds
London Northwestern
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 Merseyrail refunds
Merseyrail
No30 mins Claim refund »
 Northern rail refunds
Northern Railway
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 London Overground refunds
Overground
No30 mins Claim refund »
 Scotrail refunds
Scotrail
Yes30 mins Claim refund »
 Southeastern refunds
Southeastern
Yes30 mins Claim refund »
 Southern rail refunds
Southern Railway
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 South West trains refund
South Western Railway
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 Stansted Express refunds
Stansted Express
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 TfL Rail refunds
TfL Rail
No30 mins Claim refund »
 Thameslink refunds
Thameslink
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 Translink refunds
Translink
Yes*30 mins Claim refund »
 TransPennine Express refunds
TransPennine Express
Yes30 mins Claim refund »
 arriva trains wales
Transport for Wales Rail
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 London Underground tube refunds
London Underground
No15 mins Claim refund »
 Virgin Trains refunds
Virgin
Yes30 mins Claim refund »
 West Midlands train refunds
West Midlands
Yes15 mins Claim refund »

*Northern Irish service so different Delay Repay rules apply.

Refund policies vary across train companies, but this handy table shows exactly how much you could be owed if you've been affected by a delayed or cancelled train.

Follow the links to find out more about each company's own refund policy and to make your claim.

And, be sure to check out our guide to complaining and getting results to improve your chances of a refund even further.

How to prove your train was delayed

woman on laptop

Credit: astarot – Shutterstock

Claiming for a refund is pretty easy to do, and will often only take a couple of minutes.

Make sure you submit your claim as soon as possible after the journey to avoid missing the refund window (usually 28 days but check the company's website to confirm). You'll likely be refunded within a couple of weeks, but it can take slightly longer.

You'll need these four things to submit a successful claim for a train ticket refund:

  1. The exact length of the delay  If you can't remember, head to Recent Train Times which holds records of train arrival and departure times from the past three months
  2. The reason for the delay If you're applying for a refund through a train operator which is not on the Delay Repay scheme, you need to make a note of the reason for the delay to prove it was the train operator's fault
  3. Your ticket – Either to send in the post or upload a photo of online. If you lose your ticket, most companies will accept an email proof of purchase or similar instead, but it's not guaranteed
  4. A refund claim form – There will usually be online forms for you to complete, or you can request a refund form at your nearest train station.

Note: If you bought your ticket from a third-party company like Trainline or RedSpottedHanky, you may need to apply for your refund through the train operator (e.g. Virgin Trains rather than Trainline). Check their T&Cs before submitting a claim.

Refunds can come in the form of a bank transfer, cheque or a refund to your card (and possibly train vouchers if you'd prefer).

Automatic train delay refunds

Virgin trains at King's Cross station

Credit: Dmitry Tkachenko Photo – Shutterstock

In some cases, you could receive a refund for a delayed train automatically, without having to do anything at all.

This makes such a difference when the train's cancelled or severely delayed. In these cases, you'll hopefully be able to take an alternative route and then, with an automatic refund, get up to 100% back on your ticket without having to do anything more. So, it could effectively be a free trip!

These companies offer automatic refunds for train delays:

  1. Virgin Trains (West Coast route) Book an Advance ticket on the Virgin Trains website or app, and you'll receive an automatic refund for delays of 30 minutes or more
  2. C2C smartcard holders – Automatic refunds are awarded for delays of two minutes or more
  3. Northern by Arriva – Advance tickets bought on Northern's website or app will be automatically refunded for delays of 15 minutes or more
  4. Train Reeclaim for TfL journeys  Train Reeclaim is not associated with or endorsed by TfL, but their service automatically submits refund claims on your behalf for TfL journeys, without deducting any fees. Works for journeys on the London Underground, DLR, London Overground and TfL Rail.

What happens if your train refund claim is rejected?

busy underground train station

Credit: Chris Sampson - Flickr

Once you've read the above carefully and submitted a legitimate claim, you should be successful.

However, if your claim is rejected, make a note of the reason the train operator gives for declining your claim, and check all the small print to ensure you haven't fallen foul of a rule somewhere along the line.

If you've checked everything and you think your claim has been rejected unfairly, there are a few other options available to you.

Here's what to do if your claim for a train delay refund is rejected:

  1. Try calling them out on social media. Send a few angry tweets with screenshots and evidence, and if you get enough attention from the public, the company might step in to prevent any further damage to their reputation
  2. Take it to Transport Focus, the industry watchdog. They'll assess your case and are in a position to demand certain compensation if they think you've been ripped off. If you're travelling in London, you can contact London Travel Watch instead
  3. Take it to a small claims court. This should only be done in extreme cases and after careful consideration. The costs of this route could easily outweigh anything you would gain from winning the case.

Got a road trip ahead but worried about the cost? Check out our guide to saving money on driving.

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