A guide for rail passengers on how to get refunds and compensation, how to make a complaint and other information for travellers on Britain's railways.
Refunds and compensation
- if there is disruption and you don’t travel you can get a fee free refund from your retailer
- if you still travel and arrive late you can get compensation from your train company
Refunds if you do not travel
- If you purchase a ticket and then choose not to travel, you may be able to apply for a refund from your original retailer. Any refund may be subject to an admin fee of up to £10 and not all tickets are refundable. See ticket types below for more details
- If your train is cancelled, rescheduled or disrupted after you buy your ticket and as a result you are unable to travel you may apply for a refund from your original retailer. In these cases there is no admin fee
Compensation if you travel and are delayed
- If you are delayed in reaching your destination as a result of a delay or cancellation of a train service, you may be entitled to claim compensation from the train company that is responsible for the delay in completing your journey
You can get a refund:
- if you change your mind about travelling
- some tickets such, as Advance Tickets, are non-refundable if you just change your mind
- all ticket types are refundable if you do not travel due to disruption
- an admin fee (usually £10) applies to refunds, except in cases of disruption
- if your ticket costs less than the admin fee you will not receive any money
Refunding Season Tickets
Unexpired Season Tickets can be submitted for refund to the retailer or train company you bought it from. The refund is calculated from the date after the Season Ticket was returned.
Refunds can only be backdated with evidence that illness prevented you from travelling (National Rail Conditions of Travel, Condition 40.4).
The refund amount will be the difference between the price you paid and the cost of a ticket or tickets for the period for which you have actually used the ticket up to and including the date a refund is requested. An admin charge of no more than £10 may be payable.
The National Rail website has a calculator (National Rail Enquiries - Refunds) so you can work out the approximate refund value of your ticket. Because of the discounts on longer term Season Tickets, refunds are not made pro-rata and so there may be no monetary value to your refund once your Season Ticket is nearing expiry.
Train and station operators are required to have and comply with a procedure for handling complaints from customers and potential customers.
Making a complaint about your train company
- Gather relevant information. This could include specific journey details such as departure station, date, time and ticket type.
- Contact the train company concerned. This may be done via their website, by email or by phone.
- Finding a resolution. You should usually receive a full response within 20 working days.
- Not happy with the response? If you're not happy with the response, ask them to look at it again. The train company has a maximum of 40 working days to try to find a resolution.
If the complaint cannot be resolved, the Rail Ombudsman is able to look at the complaint from an independent perspective. The Rail Ombudsman is a free service and any decision it makes is binding upon the train service provider.
For further details about the Rail Ombudsman and how it may be able to assist, please visit their website.
Each train company needs to publish a code of practice setting out how it will provide information to passengers, including during disruption.
Most train companies rely on the Customer Information Pledges published by the Rail Delivery Group.
What is in the Pledges
- before a train journey –ensure customers are able to obtain timely and accurate information via all channels (web, contact centres, telephone services)
- at the station – tell you as soon as they know which platform your train will depart from and let you know if you need to travel in a particular part of the train
- on the train – let customers know when the train is approaching the next station to give you time to get ready to leave the train. Announcements should be consistent with the Passenger Information Screens (PIS) which themselves should be updated at the start of the journey and throughout
- during times of disruption – add prominent warnings to websites and give an estimate for how long the disruption will last
All train companies and National Rail Enquiries have a Pledges page which may be accessed via a short link at 'toc.co.uk/pledges', for example nationalrail.co.uk/pledges.
We review compliance with the pledges and monitor their implementation to ensure that the pledges are being met, even during times of disruption.
- generally for longer single journeys and subject to availability, with limited numbers available
- valid only on date and train shown on the ticket
- non-refundable except if there is disruption, but date/time can be changed before departure of the first reserved train (fee may apply)
- no break of journey allowed
- some railcard discounts apply
Off-peak/Super off-peak Tickets
- for travelling at less busy times on weekdays, and all day at the weekend
- may require you to travel at specific times of day, days of the week or on a specific route
- journey planners show where trains are off-peak
- break of journey allowed (subject to some restrictions)
- refundable subject to admin fee (unless there is disruption)
- railcard discounts apply
- where there is more than one Off-Peak fare for a journey, the cheaper fare with more restrictions will be called Super Off-Peak
- fully flexible
- refundable subject to admin fee (no fee if service is cancelled/delayed)
- railcard discounts apply
- can break your journey at stations along the route of travel (except on London Underground/DLR)
- Anytime Day single and return tickets are valid on date shown on ticket and up to 04:29 the following day. Most Anytime tickets sold in London and the Southeast are anytime day tickets
- Anytime Single must be used within 2 days of the date shown on the ticket and up until 04:29 after the last day of validity
- for Anytime Return tickets, the outward journey must be made within 5 days and up until 04:29 after the last day of validity; the return portion must be used within one calendar month and up until 04:29 after the last day of validity
- season tickets offer unlimited travel between two specified stations
- you can buy a season ticket for seven days or any period between one month and a year
- the Flexi-Season ticket allows 8 days of travel in a 28 day period
- unless your season ticket says it can only be used to travel with a specific train company, it is valid on all services on the route/within the zones for which the ticket is issued
- Season Tickets are available for most short and medium distance journeys on the National Rail network, and for some long-distance journeys where a train company chooses to offer them
- if you no longer need your Season Ticket, you can request a refund from the retailer you bought it from. An admin fee may be payable
- railcards can save you 1/3 on rail fares
- you can choose from national Railcards or regional Railcards that cover specific geographical areas
- National Railcard options include 16-25 Railcard, 26-30 Railcard, Disabled Persons Railcard, Family & Friends Railcard, Network Railcard, Senior Railcard, Two Together Railcard, and Veterans Railcard
- there may be some restrictions on when you can use certain Railcards so check the individual Railcard terms and conditions for further information
- you must always carry your Railcard with you during the journey in order to qualify for the discount
- further details about National Railcards are available on the National Rail website
- Regional Railcard options and information are available on the National Rail website
Mobile tickets ('mTicket')
- an mTicket is a train ticket that is held on your mobile device in a rail travel app
- it includes a barcode that holds your ticket information, and you will need to activate it before the barcode can be read
- if you are unable to show a valid barcode, this may be classed as travelling without a valid ticket
- ensure your mobile device is charged and your screen is in good condition so that the ticket barcode can be scanned and validated
National Rail Conditions of Travel
The National Rail Conditions of Travel form part of the agreement you make with the train companies when you buy a ticket to travel on the rail network.
They set out your rights and responsibilities when travelling by train, as well as the minimum level of service the train companies must provide.
They cover topics including buying your ticket, using your ticket, ticket refunds and compensation rights, and Season Ticket special conditions.
The complete National Rail Conditions of Travel are available on the National Rail website.