James Walker: These tips are just the ticket to ease train woes

The launch of the new Rail Ombudsman is great news for everyone who experiences a train trauma, from long-suffering commuters to disappointed day-trippers.

You could be entitled to a refund if your train service is delayed is bad weather. Picture: Michael Gillen
You could be entitled to a refund if your train service is delayed is bad weather. Picture: Michael Gillen

In an ideal world, though, you wouldn’t have to complain, so here are a few tips on how to reclaim cash, save a few bob and avoid some of the 15,000 train woes we’ve helped sort out at Resolver.

 Claim a refund. If your train is delayed by over 30 minutes (sometimes 15 minutes or less) you could be entitled to a refund of some or all of your money. The rules vary between train companies but don’t despair. Look for the “delay repay” guide on your train company’s website which will explain what the rules are and how you can claim. Some companies like Virgin automatically refund while others ask you to send in your tickets – so don’t chuck them away.

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 Season tickets. Things get more complicated with season tickets, but in theory you are still entitled to a refund for delays, service issues, even the chaotic scenes that many of us had to endure through this year of strikes, delays and timetable errors. Check the guidance on the train company website but don’t delay – there are deadlines for claiming coming up soon with some train operators. Don’t forget there’s yet another train fare rise right at the beginning of January, so this is a good time to buy a season ticket if you want to beat the increase.

 Seasonal savings. Lots of train companies have had to stall offering their discounted tickets until National Rail confirmed the Christmas timetable which has left many confusing full price tickets on sale when usually there are bargains. These timetables are now being confirmed. So sign up for free alerts from your train company so you don’t miss out when the cheap deals are out. If you’ve booked your Christmas travel bear in mind that journeys are subject to change so look out for emails warning you of changes.

 Get a railcard. You might think that railcards are only for students and pensioners but there are lots of them out there and they can save you a packet. The Two Together card gets you considerable discounts on journeys on most rail services if you travel at the same time as a friend or family member. Lots of people tell me that they thought this railcard was only for people in relationships – it’s not. But you must travel together. Family rail cards can significantly reduce the cost of a day out and a card for 26-30-year olds is out soon.

 Split your ticket. There are hundreds of different ticket options out there which has resulted in some weird quirks. It’s cheaper in some instances to split a journey in to two tickets to get a better deal. So it might work out cheaper to go from London to Newcastle, then Newcastle to Edinburgh rather than buy a direct ticket. You don’t have to get off the train – you just have to go through Newcastle (in this example) Sounds complicated? Why not have a look at some of the free ticket splitter apps out there to see if you could save.

 Don’t forget. Many train companies have time limits for making claims for delays and cancellations, so make sure claiming back for any delays promptly. It only takes a few minutes to do.