James Walker: Delay/repay and send travel firms a message

Fewer than a fifth of travellers claim for train delays. Picture: John Devlin
Fewer than a fifth of travellers claim for train delays. Picture: John Devlin
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With hot weather comes great travel misery. Last month vast swathes of the country were cut off by transport routes thanks to melting roads, overheating rails and sagging railway cables. Shortly after, downpours reduced roads to waterways. But what can you do if you need to make a complaint? Here’s a quick guide.

Delayed trains

Resolver received 6,631 complaints trains last year, the vast majority were about train delays. The good news is there’s a scheme called “delay/repay” that covers when you’re entitled to a refund from a train operator. Yet less than a fifth of us make a claim. The partial refunds start if your train is delayed more than 30 minutes, though London Underground and some operators are refunding after 15 minutes. Check out my guide here: https://bit.ly/2GVEwkn

Buses and coaches

Even more people – 7,470 – made complaints about coaches and buses. If you feel you’ve been misled by a bus timetable, for example, or your once an hour bus drives right past you, you can complain. But you can also tackle anything from rude drivers to overcrowded vehicles, not to mention diversions, wheelchair access and ticket hikes. Keep evidence such as bus tickets or your contactless payment reference and if you’re able to snap a photo it all helps.

Rearranged timetables

You might not think you can complain about the recent timetable debacles that have had such an impact on people around the UK. But you can and you should. While rail and bus companies aren’t likely to pay you individual compensation for their cock-up, it’s vital that we all take the time to make our voices heard. If enough people pass on their comments, it can make a difference.

What ticket should I buy?

I sometimes try to imagine I’m a tourist with a limited grasp of English when I’m out and about, to see how we measure up to other countries when it comes to things like transport. I was in the northwest of England last week and went to buy a train ticket. Two different colour machines offered me no less than ten different options for a five-minute journey. When I got to the other end, my ticket was with the wrong company and I was sent to a remote payment desk to pay an extra 30p. I was not amused. Ticketing on all forms of transport is too complicated. If you’ve got examples – even if you’ve not lost money – use Resolver to pass on your comments.

Season tickets

What if your train, bus or coach service is so rubbish that you deserve a refund on your season ticket? Well astoundingly, this scenario really wasn’t considered by transport companies for many years. But with recent meltdowns on the trains, the matter has come to a head. So yes, you can ask for a proportional refund on your season ticket too. Make sure you explain the impact on your daily commute and why the firm is responsible when you make your complaint.

Transport Focus is running a great campaign on delay/repay right now. They’re also the independent watchdog for passengers and road users. You can also go to the new Rail Ombudsman if you have a problem you can’t resolve with a train company.