Rail fail

3 min read
July 11, 2016

11/07/16 – In July, Southern Rail axed almost 350 timetabled services in an attempt to stabilise its strike-hit and delay-riddled network.

Rail Fail

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Commuters have long been facing service disruptions on the Southern franchise – which runs services between London, Surrey and Sussex. Now, a series of walkouts and staffing problems have wreaked havoc, with delayed and cancelled trains often making commuters’ lives a misery.

Now, Southern’s parent is facing an MP Select Committee over industrial disputes and cancellations.

Not just Southern

This will all be painfully familiar to rail users up and down the UK, whether it’s industrial action on Great Western (nee First Great Western), or endless franchise-swapping on the East Coast routes. In short, far too many of our rail journeys are going off the rails.

But what can you do if you encounter a problem? This week I’ve looked into your passenger rights when your train journey goes wrong.

How you can claim for a train delay 

The rules officially state you can only claim if it’s the train company’s fault and after an hour’s delay, but in practice, many companies have a policy of paying out after shorter delays – it very much depends on the train operator.

National Conditions of Carriage  

Put simply, this is the agreement for how the railways operate and how you are entitled to compensation if something goes wrong.

If your train is delayed for over an hour, you are entitled to a 20% refund on a single ticket or 10% on a return ticket. If you choose not to travel because the train is delayed or cancelled, then you can apply for a complete refund from the train station or submit your tickets back to the train company. Remember if possible to have some proof of when the train was delayed.

Check your train company

Different train companies have different rules – the compensations levels I’ve already mentioned are the minimum standards set by Government. Over 50% of train companies will give you compensation if your train is later than 30 minutes behind its scheduled time, so it’s worth checking, and remember you can use www.resolver.co.uk to submit your query.

Season tickets

Refunds are based on the length of delays as a proportion of the daily cost of your ticket. There are two ways to get compensation; some firms offer an automatic system for delays, while on others you have to complete a manual process.

What next?

If an issue cannot be resolved with the train company, you have the right to take your case for independent inspection. This is either Passenger Focus (which covers all of the UK outside of London) or London Travelwatch for journeys or issues within London.

When compensation is not payable on a train
• Acts or threats of vandalism or terrorism
• Suicides or accidents involving trespassers
• Gas leaks or fires in lineside buildings not caused by a train company
• Line closures at the request of the police or emergency services
• Exceptionally severe weather conditions
• Industrial action
• Riots or civil commotion
• Fire, mechanical or electrical failure or a defect (except where caused by a train company or its trains’ defects)

Who causes the delays?

Industry statistics reveal that train operating companies cause 39% of delays. Of these, just over 70% were self-inflicted, while just under 30% were delays caused by another train operating company.

What do the announcements/excuses for delays mean?

Taking the train: this is emptying the toilet tanks on the train and refilling of the water tank.
Passenger action: this covers anything from someone holding a door open, to an abusive member of the public. 
Congestion: there are too many passengers at the station or there is overcrowding or trains have been delayed causing a backlog at the station. 
Signalling problems: this is a wide range. Could be old equipment failing or the stealing of copper wire – a big problem for the railways. 

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