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Train companies conning passengers over compensation – here’s how to make sure you're not taken for a ride

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
Jun 11, 2018

Train companies are misleading passengers who lose out when trains are cancelled or delayed, an undercover probe has found.

The findings come despite changes to the rules in April. Train companies now must offer compensation for out-of-pocket expenses, or what is termed ‘consequential loss’ when the train company is at fault.

A consequential loss would be, for example, if a passenger was forced to pay for another type of transport if a train was cancelled and no other was available. The costs have to be ‘reasonable’ to qualify for reimbursement.

Consumer group Which? spoke to 26 train companies and asked if an elderly person was entitled to compensation when their train, the last one of the night, was cancelled and the person was forced to take a taxi.

Shockingly, only half – 13 of the 26 – gave the correct advice.

Worst offenders

The worst companies for giving bad info were ScotRail, Greater Anglia, Grand Central, Stansted Express, Cross Country and Heathrow Express.

All six wrongly told the callers on two separate calls that claiming compensation these circumstances was not possible.

All but one company later said that they would have paid out in this case, and that they did cover consequential loss such as this, and they plan to retrain staff.

Only Cross Country refused to comment.

Room for improvement

The investigators also found that another six companies had room to improve the way they gave advice.

Answers given by staff at Arriva Wales, Greater Northern / Thameslink and Virgin West Coast were inconsistent, with one call providing helpful information and the other unable to make it clear to the caller whether they would be able to get compensation.

Answers given by staff at South Eastern, Chiltern Railways and West Midlands Trains were vague and unhelpful, leaving unclear about their rights.

On thed other hand, 13 companies gave good advice that was consistent across all the calls made: Northern, Southwestern, Southern, Gatwick Express, TransPennine Express, East Midland, C2C, Virgin East Coast, Great Western Railway, Merseyrail, Heathrow Connect, London North Western and TFL Rail.


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What about websites?

Investigators also found that 18 of the 26 companies did no better on their websites and failed to provide clear information to customers about their rights for consequential loss.

Most simply had no information at all.

East Midlands, Great Western Railway, Heathrow Express, Hull Trains and Stansted Express gave misleading advice, merely giving blanket statements that they were not liable for consequential loss or that passengers should claim on their travel insurance.

Merseyrail, Southwestern and Southeastern also gave wrong information, saying claims would only be considered ‘under exceptional circumstances’.

Great Western, Heathrow Express and East Midlands have now updated their online information, and Hull Trains has said it is reviewing its Passengers’ Charter.

How to claim train compensation

  • You can claim compensation if your train is delayed or cancelled through the Delay Repay
  • You can think about making a claim if you’ve experienced a train delay or cancellation of at least 15 minutes, or 30 minutes (depending on your train company). You’ll be entitled to a full or partial refund for that journey.
  • You can make a claim regardless of what kind of ticket you were travelling on.
  • Under the right circumstancesyou may also be able to recover for anything else you had to buy like train tickets, taxi fares or bus rides.

Tips to make a successful l claim

    • Take a note of the date, time, train company and the service you’re on, in a safe place such as in an email to yourself or a note on your phone.
    • Make sure you include the reason given for the delay or cancellation and how long you were held-up for.
    • Record what impact the service disruption had ​on you​ – ​eg, you had to take a taxi because the last train home was cancelled.
    • ​Keep any receipts and take photos to support your claim.


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