Money Wellness
train in countryside
category iconMoney Saver
calendar icon18 Apr 2024

How can you get compensation for a delayed or cancelled train?

 Compensation paid to passengers for train delays in Britain has reached record levels, with annual payouts of over £100m and the number of claims for delayed or cancelled trains continuing to grow.

The latest official data from the rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road, shows the number of approved claims recorded across all train operators in Britain until early January was 4.6 million, and it surpassed the previous year’s tally with several months remaining.

 Payouts to passengers for disrupted journeys reached £101.3m in the year to April 2023 – which was up by 155% from £39m in 2021-22.

 Over the past year, almost 320,000 train services were cancelled or part-cancelled. This is all due to strikes, staff shortages, damaged rail infrastructure and mechanical failures on trains.

 But the compensation payouts only cover scheduled services as trains that are removed from the timetable usually do not trigger compensation. This is a policy that has drawn huge criticism on lines such as Avanti West Coast and TransPennine Express.

 The growing compensation bill reflects increasing automated payouts from train operators. Some train operators now issue refunds immediately to passengers who have booked advance journeys through their websites, or to registered season ticket holders during any disruption.

The industry has also improved its response to complaints; more than 99% of claims are resolved within 20 days.

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators, said they apologised to everyone affected, adding: “When train delays or cancellations do occur, it’s important that customers know how to claim for compensation. We have taken steps to simplify this process and the ORR [Office of Rail and Road] data confirms that 99.5% of all delay compensation claims were closed within 20 working days.

“Performance on the railway is not as good as it should be. The rail industry is working hard to make trains more reliable, and we’re recruiting and training new staff to improve resilience.”

How do I get compensation if my train is delayed or cancelled?

If your train journey is cancelled, you can get a full refund if you can't take the next train or decide not to travel.

You need to keep your train tickets to get a refund and you should try to claim within 28 days, but some train companies allow longer.

You can claim compensation by visiting your train company’s website - most have online forms you can use. You’ll probably need to upload a picture of your ticket. Or you can write them a letter, with the details of your journey and tickets.

Be warned, a lot of companies offer vouchers to use on future train journeys. You don’t have to accept them - if you want a cash refund, you can insist on it.

Season tickets

If you have a season ticket, the best thing to do is ask at your ticket office or check your train company’s website. You’ll usually be able to get some money back for a delay or cancellation.

How much can I get for a cancellation?

You’re entitled to a full refund if your train was cancelled and you couldn't take the next train or decided not to travel. If you didn't use your ticket, you can get a refund without any fees - it doesn't matter what type of ticket you bought.

How much can I get for a delay?

How much you can claim depends on which train company you were travelling with when you were delayed. This might be a different company from the one you booked your journey with. 

Avatar of Lydia Bell-Jones

Lydia Bell-Jones

With a background in banking, Lydia has been writing professionally for over five years. She is passionate about helping people improve their personal finances and has a particular interest in the connection between money and mental health.

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