Train passengers 'left in dark' over delay compensation

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Only three out of 10 passengers are being alerted by train operators that they can claim compensation following disruption, a new survey suggests.

Passenger watchdog Transport Focus, which carried out the research, said tens of millions of pounds goes unclaimed every year.

Just 31% of 2,000 people surveyed said they were made aware of their right to a payout when they last experienced an eligible delay.

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The figure varies widely between train companies, from 16% with Transport for Wales to 60% with Virgin Trains (now Avanti West Coast).

The 'Make Delay Pay' campaign which will run across stationsThe 'Make Delay Pay' campaign which will run across stations
The 'Make Delay Pay' campaign which will run across stations

More than a fifth (21%) of those polled said they never claim compensation for train delays.

Reasons for failing to claim include the reward not being perceived to match the effort involved, confusion about the process and negative previous experiences.

Department for Transport (DfT) data shows that train companies paid out £79 million in compensation to passengers during the 2018/19 financial year, down 2.1% on the previous 12 months but more than triple the 2014/15 total.

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Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: "Too often passengers are left in the dark about their right to claim compensation on a delayed train. It's about time it was made easier for passengers to get what they are entitled to.

"Despite the promise of one-click compensation, only nine train operators currently pay out some form of automated compensation for delays and cancellations.

"It's vital that train operators actively encourage passengers to claim, making it quick, easy and automated as soon as possible."

The amount of compensation which passengers can receive is based on the type and cost of the ticket held, the length of the delay and the train operator involved.

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Most firms offer the Delay Repay scheme, with some paying out once a journey is delayed by at least 15 minutes.

Lengthy claims processes

Transport Focus's Make Delay Pay campaign will run across stations, cinemas and social media to encourage passengers to claim what they are entitled to.

The watchdog's survey recorded support for potential measures to boost the proportion of passengers making claims.

These included a digital wallet function allowing smaller payments to accumulate before being redeemed at a later date, or the option to swap compensation for complimentary tickets.

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Transport Focus also concluded that many train operators still have complicated and lengthy claims processes.

It called for the creation of a single website to deal with all claims.

Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said: "We want passengers to get the compensation they're entitled to and the industry is working together to encourage more people to claim and make the process easier.

"More train operators are offering automatic compensation and raising awareness of Delay Repay with announcements on trains, notifications on Facebook messenger and email reminders."

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A DfT spokeswoman said: "Passengers deserve reliable trains that run on time, and to be quickly and easily compensated when let down by operators.

"Delay Repay 15 has now been extended to around 90% of passenger journeys on DfT let franchises, benefiting millions of passengers across the country.

"We are also working with train operators to introduce automated one-click systems on smartphones to make claiming compensation even easier."