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Travel

How to get refunds for train delays and cancellations

Train delay refunds are easier to get than you might expect (almost making the delays worth it). Here's how to get up to a 100% refund in compensation when your train's cancelled or delayed.

Man at train station with clock and ticket

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

Train delays and cancellations might be super 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 and the amount you could be owed. Plus, we've got advice on 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 overpriced rail travel? Try out our tips for getting cheap train tickets.

What is Delay Repay?

money in a purse

Credit: Yevgen Kravchenko, kamui29, Bell Photography 423 – Shutterstock

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 company is not part of the national Delay Repay scheme, they'll have a different refund 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. You can find out more on Translink's website.

Can you get a refund on a train ticket?

Dwight the office success

Credit: NBC

You can get refunds for train tickets for the following reasons:

  • Your train is delayed or cancelled and you decide not to travel – You'd be entitled to a full refund.
  • Your train is delayed for over 30 minutes for a reason the operator could have prevented – The amount you will get 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.

How to know if a delay is the train company's fault

Factors that are in the train company's control:

  • Overhead line problems
  • Broken or damaged tracks
  • Signal failure
  • Points failure
  • Telecoms failure.

Factors that are out of the train company's control:

  • Exceptionally severe weather
  • Suicides or accidents
  • Line closures requested by emergency services
  • Fires or gas leaks in buildings at the side of the tracks
  • Acts of vandalism or terrorism.

The above lists show a few of the main factors that might cause disruption, and whether they're classed as in or out of the control of train operators.

Most companies (apart from TfL), will also 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 decide not to travel, then 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 about season ticket refunds – after a delay or cancellation, you might get a discount when you buy your next ticket.

Train ticket refunds for poor service

As well as delays and cancellations, you might also be entitled to a refund for bad service on the train.

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 the train company (referencing the Act), with details of your complaint and what compensation you're requesting.

It will help your case massively if you can include evidence of the poor service, like photos.

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.

Can you get a refund 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 if you miss the train.

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 train ticket refunds

  • If you paid for a first-class ticket, but you weren't able to claim a first-class seat for whatever reason (e.g. the carriage was full), 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 for delayed trains?

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.

If a train company is part of the Delay Repay scheme, you can expect the following refunds for train delays:

Length of delayRefund amount
15–29 minutes25% of single fare*
30–59 minutes50% of single fare
60–119 minutes100% of single 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 which 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 refunds

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 trains logo
CrossCountry trains
Yes30 mins Claim refund »
East Midlands Railway
East Midlands Trains
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 Eurostar
Eurostar
No60 mins Claim refund »
 Gatwick Express
Gatwick Express
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 Grand Central train
Grand Central trains
No60 mins Claim refund »
 Greater Anglia
Greater Anglia
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 Great Western Railway
Great Western Railway
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 Great Northern
Great Northern
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 Heathrow Express
Heathrow Express
No15 mins Claim refund »
Hull Trains
Hull Trains
Yes30 mins Claim refund »
LNER
LNER
Yes30 mins Claim refund »
 London Northwestern
London Northwestern
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 Merseyrail
Merseyrail
No30 mins Claim refund »
 Northern rail
Northern Railway
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 London Overground
Overground
No30 mins Claim refund »
 Scotrail
Scotrail
Yes30 mins Claim refund »
 Southeastern
Southeastern
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 Southern rail
Southern Railway
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 South Western Railway
South Western Railway
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 Stansted Express
Stansted Express
Yes (through Greater Anglia)15 mins Claim refund »
 TfL Rail
TfL Rail
No30 mins Claim refund »
 Thameslink
Thameslink
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 Translink
Translink
Yes*30 mins Claim refund »
 TransPennine Express
TransPennine Express
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 arriva trains
Transport for Wales Rail
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 London Underground tube
London Underground
No15 mins Claim refund »
Avanti West Coast logo
Avanti West Coast
Yes15 mins Claim refund »
 West Midlands trains
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 using 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.

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

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

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!

Just note that automatic refunds are often based on when you tap in and out, and how this compares to the 'expected' time for someone to make that journey.

There may be scenarios where the automatic refund system isn't enough for the train company to identify that you've been delayed, so you may still have to submit a manual claim.

Companies offering automatic refunds for train delays

  1. c2c – Automatic refunds are awarded to Smartcard holders for delays of two minutes or more.
  2. Great Northern, Southern or Thameslink – As long as you tap in and out with your Key Smartcard, you'll be automatically refunded if you're delayed by 15 minutes or more.
  3. Northern Railway – Advance tickets bought on Northern Railway's website or app will be automatically refunded for delays of 15 minutes or more.
  4. South Western Railway – If you're a Smartcard holder, or you bought an Advance ticket through the South Western Railway website, you'll be automatically compensated for delays of 15 minutes or more.
  5. Transpennine Express – If you buy an Advance Purchase ticket via the Transpennine Express website or app, you'll automatically receive compensation for delays of 30 minutes or more.
  6. Avanti West Coast – Book an Advance ticket on the Avanti West Coast website or app, and you'll receive an automatic refund for delays of 15 minutes or more.
  7. 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. This 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

If your refund claim is rejected by a train company and you disagree with their decision, these are the steps you can take:

  1. Note down why your claim was declined – Check all of the small print to confirm whether or not the train company's decision was justified.
  2. Take your complaint to The Rail Ombudsman – You can bring your complaint to The Rail Ombudsman if you're unsatisfied with the train company's response, or if you didn't get a response from them 40 days after making your complaint. Please note, we advise only approaching The Rail Ombudsman for more extreme cases.
  3. Follow the ombudsman's guidance – The Rail Ombudsman may help you resolve the issue with the train company, or they might refer the complaint to another organisation if it falls outside of their remit.

Hopefully, if you're entitled to compensation, the above steps will help you reach a fair agreement with the train company.

Having issues with your uni? We also have a guide on how to complain and get compensation from your university.

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