Our view: Rail compensation, refunds and mobile ticketing

In 2018, more than 40% of rail passengers experienced delays eligible for Delay Repay compensation.

It won’t come a surprise to learn that the number of rail passengers eligible for compensation is increasing . More travellers are experiencing delays of 30 minutes or longer; in 2018, 41% of passengers experienced delays eligible for compensation under the industry’s Delay Repay compensation scheme.

Delay Repay scheme

Most train operators (TOCs) offer Delay Repay but longer-serving franchise holders do not follow the same regulations as operators that have taken over franchises more recently.

Those that have will refund half the ticket price for delays at your destination of 30 - 60 minutes, and the full cost of a single journey cost (i.e. half of the return cost) if you arrive over an hour late. Under the Delay Repay 15 scheme (which only a few operators currently offer but is expected to be widely applied by 2025), travellers delayed by 15 -29 minutes are entitled to 25% of the cost of a single journey.

More passengers are claiming compensation, although fewer passengers claim for shorter delays. In 2018, 39% of travellers claimed delays of 30 minutes or more, compared to 18% of passengers for delays under half an hour.

Compensation challenges

Not that claiming compensation is easy. In May 2019 the Which! Consumer group reported that rail passengers seeking compensation for delayed journeys are required to submit up to 24 pieces of information to make a claim.

Ticket price and length of delay are the biggest factors of the traveller’s decision to make a claim; 46% of passengers don’t claim on tickets of less than £5 simply because it’s not worth the effort – even though the impact of the disruption on employee or business productivity is much greater.

In theory, as travellers claim the compensation, they receive the refunds too. But since the employer normally foots the bill for business travel, most believe they should receive the benefit instead.

Technological advances

As a result, a number of new services and digital tools have come onto the business travel market. As in the airline sector, specialist compensation services provide software to automate the Delay Repay claims process. Most tools take a small cut of the refund value but the majority is passed back via the Travel Management Company (TMC) to the customer.

Capita Travel and Events’ customers can enjoy an automated delay and repay compensation service through our Delay Repay Checker tool. The system tracks traveller data and automatically claims compensation on eligible, delayed journeys. Developed by our technology partner RailGuard, this is the first service to repatriate compensation to the corporate customer directly, rather than the traveller.

Although consumer awareness of Delay Repay schemes is rising, lack of awareness remains a challenge. In 2016, two-thirds of eligible compensation claims were not being made, and 57% of rail users either don’t know they could claim or haven’t thought about it. Between 1 April 2018 and 5 January 2019, train operators closed 4.2 million delay compensation claims.