Your rights when trains are delayed or cancelled, and how and when to claim compensation.

What you need to know about your train rights

  1. Your legal rights when travelling by train are covered by the Rail Passenger Rights Regulation 2007 (EC) and Consumer Rights Act 2015.
  2. You can claim a full refund for the cost of your ticket if you decide not to travel due to delays of 60 minutes or more.
  3. If you travel, the level of compensation will depend on the length of your delay ranging from 25% to 100% of the cost of a single ticket.
  4. Most companies operate a Delay Repay compensation scheme to make it easier to claim compensation for delays caused by late or cancelled trains. 
  5. Complaints about train travel must first be made to the company and, if you’re not happy with the response, can be escalated to the Rail Ombudsman after 40 days.

Your legal rights when travelling by train are covered by the Rail Passenger Rights Regulation 2007 (EC) which covers you for delays or cancelled journeys, and the Consumer Rights Act 2015 which covers you when a service is not performed with reasonable care and skill.

The National Rail Conditions of Travel provide more information on your rights and obligations as a passenger. All train companies provide a passenger charter outlining what you can expect from their service.

Your rights to refunds and compensation

You may be entitled to a full refund or compensation if you arrive late to your destination due to delayed or cancelled trains. 

If you decide not to travel due to a delayed or cancelled train then you can claim a full refund from the company you bought your ticket from for delays of 60 minutes or more.

If you decide to travel and arrive late then you will be able to claim compensation. You will need to make a claim from the train company causing the delay – see How to claim compensation using ‘Delay Repay’.

The exact amount might vary between train companies but all will offer compensation. The level of compensation will also vary depending on the type of ticket you have. For instance, compensation for a season ticket will be calculated differently to a single day ticket.

The length of the delay will also impact the level of compensation you can claim, which also varies by train company. The National Rail Conditions of Travel set out the minimum levels of compensation you can expect due to delays or cancellations:

Time delayed1Single ticketReturn ticket
15 to 29 minutes225% of the ticket price12.5% of the ticket price
30 to 59 minutes50% 25% 
60 to 119 minutes100%50%
120 minutes or more100%100%

1 Overall time delayed in reaching your destination. 2 Not all companies offer the 15 minute threshold.

It is worth remembering that the impact of a train that arrives late by 10 minutes could result in you being delayed for longer than this if you miss a connecting train. It is the delay in reaching your destination that counts when claiming.

Compensation for season ticket holders

Compensation for season ticket holders is different. Some companies will offer a renewal discount if punctuality and reliability performance has been poor. Some companies will also allow you to claim for individual delays. Check with your train company.

Your train company will work out the value of a single journey if you own a season ticket. Your season ticket typically covers the following number of journeys:

Type of season ticketNumber of single journeys covered
Annual 4641
Flexi 16

1 This assumes you will travel over some weekends as well as in the week

The cost of your season ticket will be divided by the number of journeys. The percentage of compensation you can claim will then be applied to this single ticket cost. For example, you can claim £6 in compensation against a single journey cost of £12 if you have a £120 weekly season ticket and your arrival was delayed by 30 minutes. 

What you’re entitled to while you wait

Train companies must keep you well informed of delays and cancellations – including providing information about how long the disruption will last. You should also be offered free refreshments if you’re affected by more than 60 minutes.

You will be entitled to a hotel or other accommodation if your delay keeps you overnight, and the cost of transport to and from where you stay. If you get stuck mid-journey then you should be offered alternative transport to the station you were travelling to.

How to claim compensation using Delay Repay

Most companies operate a Delay Repay compensation scheme to make it easier to claim compensation for delays caused by late or cancelled trains. You can use Delay Repay for all ticket types – including season tickets – and for whatever the cause of the delay.

You must make your claim within 28 days of your delay and it will be worked out based on the regular or temporary train timetable in place at the time of travel. You won’t be able to claim using Delay Repay if you were told about the delay before buying a ticket. 

Train companies who do not follow the Delay Repay scheme will still offer compensation. But, under law, these companies don’t need to offer compensation if the delay was not caused by the rail industry – for example, due to bad weather or trespassing on the line.

Visit the website of the train company you’re claiming from to find out more. Information about refunds and compensation can usually be found in the help section.

How to complain about train companies

Any complaint about your train company must first be made directly to the train company. You should expect a reply within 20 days.

If you don’t get a response or a satisfactory reply, you can escalate your complaint to the Rail Ombudsman after 40 days. The train company must abide by any decision made by the Ombudsman.

Following the tips from the Office of Rail and Road to help you make your complaint.

Train company collective actions

Collective action lawsuits are being taken against three train companies for not making boundary fares easily available for Travelcard holders. Govia Thameslink Railway – which runs Great Northern, Southern and Thameslink – is accused in a £73m lawsuit of making 3.2m of its customers pay twice when travelling in London. Southeastern and South Western train companies are accused of making 2.9 million customers pay double, leaving these customers £93 million out of pocket. Consumer rail campaigner Justin Guttman who is leading these claims said: ‘The failure by these companies to make boundary fares more readily available is scandalous and has been going on for years.’ The claims against these companies will go to trial in June 2024.