Matt Allwright on claiming compensation for train delays
Best magazine's consumer champion Matt Allwright advises us on how to claim money back from the train companies
I spend a lot of time on trains, visiting people who have had bad things done to them, then finding the people who have done the bad things. I’ve even developed a train-travel routine:
● Find seat
● Plug in phone
● Put headphones on
● Pull hat down
● Shut eyes
Not sociable I admit, but it makes a five-hour trip pass in what feels like a heartbeat, and once you get used to it, AND THE TRAIN IS ON TIME, a train trip will beat a car trip hands-down. I love it. Did you notice the capitals? Yes. Because a train delay means the hour and a half you saved by avoiding the motorway has been frittered away by engineering works or a points failure, and your friends who drove are sailing past you on an empty M6 toll road. And the worst bit is, there’s nothing you can do. You’re not a passenger or a customer, but a human marble, pushed into a metal tube you can’t get out of.
Don't give up easily
By the time that you get off three hours late, you’re so exhausted the last thing you want to do is take on the Fat Controller train companies who have your money, and are laughing at you and your little wheelie bag. But you shouldn’t give up easily. If you do get pushed into the sidings for an hour or two, there is proper money to be clawed back, and it’s easier than you think.
Here are the rules
If you are more than one hour late due to something the train company could have sorted, you are entitled to 20% of your ticket value back. If it’s a return, and only one leg is delayed, it’s 10%. If it’s a weekly season ticket it’s 20% divided by seven. This is in the National Conditions of Carriage - www.nationalrail.co.uk - and every train company has to abide by them. Then there are the companies’ own policies, which vary and can be better than the above. For instance, lose an hour thanks to South West Trains and they’ll give you the full amount back. (This combined with their season ticket pregnant lady First-Class upgrade gets them a gold star.) Chiltern Railways gives you 50% for a half-hour delay. Others are similarly generous. Some aren’t.
Act within 28 days
The prospect of wrestling the fat controller to the ground and squeezing some cash, or more likely train vouchers, out of him shouldn’t put you off. Don’t leave it – you usually need to act in the 28 days following your journey to get a result.
I’ve been nosing around a few train operator websites and it’s fair to say some make it easy (thank you East Coast), and some need you to perform more clicks than the cast of 'West Side Story'. To side-step this problem there is www.traindelays.co.uk. Set up by frustrated traveller Chris Davy, it shows train delay information combined with a fast-track way of claiming direct from the company for your loss. Many of us picture ourselves sending lengthy letters or queuing for years to receive a pittance. This site shows you how easy it is, and has provided passengers with a free service which puts a chunk of cash back in their pockets for all their travel hassles.
Train companies get away with poor service because so many of us are reluctant to claim back. Making them cough up is the only way they’ll ever sort themselves out.
Matt Allwright is a presenter on BBC One's Rogue Traders and a columnist in Best magazine, published weekly. You can access Matt's previous columns in the All About You archive. Follow Matt on Twitter.
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