The Pain of Trains

4 min read
July 27, 2017

27/06/17 “Sorry to announce that your train is now cancelled…” Why?

If there’s one thing that makes us Brits collectively breathe in and try to retreat to our ‘happy place’ it’s delays. We’ll queue for hours quite happily – and even turn it in to a national sport. We’ll tut at rudeness while studiously avoiding eye contact with strangers. But the stoic patience that makes us tolerate rainy bank holidays, sporting failures and murphy’s law deserts us when faced with delays on planes, trains and other forms of transport.

…and quite right too. We really shouldn’t put up with bad service. One of the reasons why train delays drive you all so mad (judging by the emails and complaints we receive from you) is because in some cases, the delays have got so bad, so regular and so disruptive they’re having a significant effect on your life.

Yet surprisingly, many people don’t know their rights when it comes to compensation for train delays – or how easy it is to make a claim. That’s why we’ve put together a brand new Resolver guide covering everything you ever need to know about delays, getting your cash back, your legal rights and some tips too.

And to help us all get through the latest round of delays and cancellations, here’s some of our ‘favourite’ reasons for train delays!

Leaves on the track

Let’s start with a classic! Delays due to leaves on the track is an evergreen story that the newspapers like to write about every year. But it really is the cause of many a cancellation every Autumn when those selfish trees we’ve planted near railway lines shed their loads, stick to the rails and cause the lines to go slippy. Note, this is a country with ‘seasons’ so why this happens is one of life’s great mysteries. Other countries have trains and trees too.

The wrong kind of snow and ‘slippy rain’

That pesky weather is a perennial source of delays in this country. The wrong snow excuse has been applied to snow that’s too light and fluffy, or too dense and sticky. Which makes us wonder if there’s a secret ‘Goldilocks’ of snow that’s just right. Answers on a postcard please. And yes, slippy rain was indeed given as the reason for a huge delay a year ago by a nameless train operator, making us long for the days of non-stick rain and bouncy puddles.

There’s an inflatable clown on the track

This actually happened. The London to Cardiff line was once disrupted after a giant inflatable Ronald MacDonald (other fast food emporiums are available) made a break for freedom, escaped its ties and came to rest on the main line.

Back in the day…

You may think this is a new phenomenon, but back in the 40’s a series of train delays were explained with the excuse that they had been affected by ‘the wrong type of coal’. Here’s hoping that the train operators don’t try that one with the ‘wrong type of electricity’.

Crazies and interlopers

Of course, it’s not all down to ‘dew on the line’ or ‘too much heat on the tracks’ (both genuine excuses). Sometimes our fellow human beings throw a spanner in the works. Trains out of London were once delayed by a man with an air rifle who had climbed up a signal and was taking pot shots at passing trains. Drunken stag parties often result in line closures while police chase them off the tracks. And of course, there was a spate of copper thefts a few years that meant trains were delayed because enterprising thieves had nicked the wiring.

A bridge too far

It’s not always the train tracks that result in delays to rail services. Sometimes a truck full of irony can do the same. Commuters found this out to their cost when a rail bridge in south London was hit by a Halfords truck bearing the legend ‘we fit’. Unfortunately for the driver, it didn’t fit under the bridge, got wedged and resulted in chaos for commuters while the stability of the bridge was assessed.

We hope these terrible excuses give you something to smile about when delays strike. And here’s something else: You’re entitled to a partial refund if your service is delayed even by 15 minutes with some operators – and it goes up the longer the delay goes on. Yet hundreds of thousands of pounds goes unclaimed because people don’t know how to get started on a claim. So don’t delay! Submit your free compensation claim.

We’d love to hear your examples of terrible train delay excuses and other transport mishaps. Get in touch at or send us a tweet or message on Facebook.

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