Rail compensation


When passengers are delayed beyond a certain length of time they become entitled to claim compensation, regardless of whether the company they are travelling with is responsible for the delay they have experienced.

In July 2019 we published our response to the Williams Review Team’s request for advice on what more could be done by train companies to make it easier for passengers to access the compensation they are entitled to and whether more regulatory powers are required to ensure it happens.

We set out a number of short, medium and long-term reforms that are targeted at the key areas for improvement outlined above. These reforms are designed to make passengers aware of their entitlement to compensation and empowered to make a claim.

In the short-term, we proposed that we consult on the introduction of a new delay compensation licence condition. The licence condition would require train companies to comply with a new code of practice on delay compensation.

Our medium and long-term proposals focussed on wider considerations for the Williams Review. For example, in the medium-term the modernisation of national ticketing, including the application of new technology and ticketing processes; whilst in the long-term, we suggested that compensation arrangements be considered within the future framework of passenger services that the Williams Review is developing.

Consultation on improving access to delay compensation

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We have published our proposals to improve access to delay compensation through a new licence condition, code of practice and Third Party Intermediary code.

Consultation on improving access to delay compensation

2015 super-complaint

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On 21 December 2015 Which? submitted a super-complaint to us raising concerns that most delayed rail passengers are not aware of, nor apply for, the compensation to which they are entitled and that there are features of the passenger rail market in Great Britain, including certain conduct by TOCs and the limited competition to franchised operators on many lines, that contribute to this.

We had 90 days to make our assessment and report on our findings, recommendations and any proposed further steps. We published a response report on 18 March 2016 with a package of measures to deliver results to consumers.

Our super-complaint response report – An update

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In our response report of 18 March 2016 we made a commitment to publish an update on our progress in December. This report, published on 20 December 2016, provides:

  • An overview of our progress;
  • Describes progress against each of the recommendations in our response;
  • Focuses on the areas where we have evidence of improvement;
  • Updates on the relevant requirements of the Consumer Rights Act 2015; and
  • Describes next steps.

Our March 2016 response report

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Our response report, published on 18 March 2016, recommends a package of measures to deliver results for consumers:

  • A coordinated, national promotional campaign by the train companies to increase passenger awareness of compensation available.
  • Clearer, plain English forms, website information, and other written communication to make the process of claiming compensation simpler.
  • Better training to support staff in providing better information.
  • Review of consistency between train company franchise agreements to ensure compensation is promoted more prominently and more often at the time of delay.
  • A clearer licence condition for train companies so that explaining compensation is considered and enforced as a key element of good passenger information.

We will actively engage and closely monitor train companies to make sure improvements are delivering for passengers.

We are also working with Transport Focus on a compensation survey of 8000 passengers and will establish and measure the 'claims gap' between what passengers are entitled to from delays and how much is actually paid out.

Our March 2016 conclusions

We've produced a summary document on our conclusions including some information on compensation for delayed passengers.

Our assessment of the evidence during the course of our 90 day investigation has led us to conclude that action is needed to:

  • increase the number of passengers aware of their rights;
  • improve the information passengers receive, so they are more likely to claim; and
  • make the process for claiming more passenger-friendly.

We need to ensure these changes make a difference not just in the short-term but over time, so we have also concluded that:

  • there needs to be more systematic monitoring of whether passengers are seeing improvements and more claims are being made; and
  • linked to this, and to improve trust in the system, there is a need for much greater transparency through improved data and the publication of this data.

The research we have done

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During the 90 day period we have looked at existing research, gathered detailed evidence from across the sector, examined TOC websites and social media and reviewed compensation claim processes. We also commissioned a large programme of primary research.

We are grateful to all contributors including train operating companies (TOCs), franchising authorities (including the Department for Transport and Transport Scotland), the Welsh Government, consumer bodies, and other interested parties, for their willing engagement in this work, which has allowed us to consider the issues raised by Which? and determine whether, and if so what, action is appropriate in relation to these issues.

We held a briefing session for industry stakeholders on the Which? super-complaint in 14 January 2016. View our presentation.