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Consumer advice information

Rail travel: your rights

In the guide

This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales

When you buy a train ticket you are making a contract with the train company for the provision of a rail travel service. If you buy your ticket via a third party, that party is acting as the train company's agent and the train company remains liable to you to fulfil the terms of the contract and provide you with the rail travel service that you have paid for.

You have rights and obligations that are set out in the Rail Passengers' Rights and Obligations Regulations 2010, and encompassed in the National Rail Conditions of Carriage and each train company's Passenger Charter.

The law

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives you rights when you make a contract with a trader for the supply of goods, services and digital content. This law replaces and updates most of the rights you had under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.

Please note that the services provisions of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 are not yet in force for mainline rail consumer contracts; they will be phased in for these industries between October 2016 and October 2017.

If you enter a rail travel contract after a train company or a trader acting as its agent (such as a travel agent) misled you or because they used an aggressive commercial practice, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 give you rights to redress: the right to unwind the contract, the right to a discount and the right to damages. These rights are in addition to your rights and obligations set out in the National Rail Conditions of Carriage. The 'Misleading & aggressive practices - your right to redress' guide gives more information.

RAIL PASSENGERS' RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS REGULATIONS 2010 

EU Regulation 1371/2007 on rail passengers' rights and obligations strengthened and harmonised the rights of rail passengers across the European Union. The Rail Passengers' Rights and Obligations Regulations 2010 brought the EU Regulation into force in the UK. The Office of Rail and Road is responsible for implementing the regulations and Transport Focus and London TravelWatch deal with complaints from passengers.

National Rail Conditions of Carriage

The rights you have under the Rail Passengers' Rights and Obligations Regulations 2010 when travelling by train on the national rail network are set out in the National Rail Conditions of Carriage (opens in a new window). Some of the key conditions are summarised below:

TICKETS (includes electronic tickets)

The train company must make tickets available to buy from stations, online and by phone, as appropriate. You can buy a ticket during or at the end of a journey if there are no facilities at the station. You must have a valid ticket to travel otherwise you may be liable to pay a penalty fare.

Tickets may specify:

  • that they are only valid to use on a certain company's trains
  • the time period in which you can use the ticket
  • travel restrictions
  • the route you are entitled to take
  • that a railcard must be produced (if the tickets were bought using a railcard)
  • that a photocard or other form of identification must be produced (season tickets, electronic tickets, etc)

Up to two children under the age of five can travel free of charge with a ticket-holding passenger, but they may need to vacate their seat if it is required by another ticket-holding passenger.  Discounts are available on most tickets for children under the age of 16.

In some circumstances you may be issued with a ticket in electronic form, known as an electronic ticket. These can be stored on a:

  • smartcard
  • payment card or identity card
  • mobile phone
  • personal organiser
  • any other mobile device or
  • database that is linked to an authorised contactless bank card

YOUR RIGHT TO A REFUND

If you have not used your ticket to make all or part of your journey because the train was cancelled, delayed, your reservation was not honoured or you decided not to travel, you can take your unused ticket to any train company's ticket office and receive an immediate full refund.

If the train was cancelled, delayed or your reservation was not honoured and the ticket, or the relevant part is unused, you can submit a claim for a refund to the ticket seller within 28 days of its expiry, you will be given a full refund within one month of your claim.

If you bought a ticket from a train company's ticket office (or self-service machine), by phone, the train company's website, from a travel agent or other website, you are entitled to a refund if you return your ticket within 28 days of its expiry. Normally refunds are processed within one month of your claim. With electronic tickets, the stored ticket data will be deleted as part of the refund arrangement.

Please note that in some circumstances an administration charge of not more than £10 is payable to process a refund. If the cost of the charge is more than the refund due, then the refund will not be paid. Your right to a refund can be restricted if you bought reduced or discounted tickets, but you must be given clear information on this restriction at the time you buy the ticket.

You can cancel a payment to buy a ticket that was made on your credit or debit card if it was a fraudulent payment.

If you do not use or decide to stop using a season ticket and there is between 3 days and 7 days validity remaining, depending on the type of season ticket, you can claim a refund. The method of calculating the refund is set out in the conditions of carriage.

YOUR RIGHT TO COMPENSATION FOR DELAYS

When delays, cancellations or poor service - that are within the control of the train company or rail service company - occur you are entitled to compensation. This is set out in the train company's Passenger Charter. Each train company determines the level of compensation it pays, but the minimum amount for a delay of more than 60 minutes is set out below:

Type of ticketAmount in vouchers
single ticket or return ticket with delay on both the outward and return trip50% of the price paid
return ticket - delay on outward or return trip50% of the price paid for the part of the trip that was delayed
season ticketcheck the discount / compensation arrangements in the train company's Passenger Charter

You can ask for money compensation or for compensation to be paid in rail vouchers.

Under this condition, the amount of compensation represents the total liability of the train company for delays. They do not accept liability for loss (including consequential loss) for the delay and/or cancellation of a train but they may, in exceptional circumstances, consider additional claims. If you wish to make a claim, you should send your ticket, along with full details of your journey, to the train company within 28 days of the date of the journey.

If a train company leaves you stranded because of circumstances within its control any other train company, if it is able to do so, should help you get to your destination or provide you with overnight accommodation.

The conditions of carriage set out the circumstances that are not considered within the control of the train or rail service company - for example, acts of vandalism or terrorism, suicides, line closures at the request of the police and severe weather. These are known as force majeure events. In such circumstances compensation may not be payable. However, a Court of Justice of the European Union case has ruled that rail passengers may be entitled to a partial refund of the price of their train ticket, even when the delay is attributed to a force majeure event. Contact Citizens Advice consumer service or Transport Focus for advice if you have a complaint of this type.

DISABLED & REDUCED MOBILITY PASSENGERS

If you give at least 24 hours' notice, the minimum requirement of a train company is that is provides free assistance to you, such as helping you get on and off the train where a station is staffed and making reasonable efforts to assist at stations that are not staffed. A train company should ensure you can complete your journey, by arranging alternative transport for instance, if a train or station is not accessible to you. You should be provided with information on request about the accessibility of rail services and facilities on trains.

Train companies will offer reservations (where this applies) and tickets to disabled people and those with reduced mobility at no extra cost.

Train companies' Passenger Charter

All train companies must have a Passenger Charter that sets out what their commitments are to their passengers. Train companies may give you additional rights to those you are entitled to expect under the National Rail Conditions of Carriage. You can find a list of the train companies on the National Rail Enquiries (opens in a new window) website.

Most train companies operate a 'delay repay' scheme and details can be found in their Passenger Charter. Some companies will pay compensation for delays over 30 minutes at a level that is higher than the minimum required under the National Rail Conditions of Carriage regardless of the cause of the delay. Some companies will only pay compensation if the delay was within their control. However, you should note the ruling in the EU court case mentioned above.

Some train companies operate a 'seat reservation compensation' scheme. If you reserve a seat and it is not available and an alternative seat cannot be found on the train then you may be able to claim compensation in accordance with the relevant train company's Passenger Charter. Where possible, ensure your ticket and seat reservation slip are endorsed by the train guard as proof.

What to do if you have a complaint:

  • read the National Rail Conditions of Carriage and the train company's Passenger Charter
  • the Passenger Charter should have details of the train company's complaints procedure
  • complain to the train company and give them the opportunity to respond
  • if you complain by phone follow up with an email or letter so you have evidence of your complaint
  • give a full explanation of your complaint, including the details of the journey and how much you paid (send a copy of your ticket), what the nature of your complaint is, what you would like the train company to do and by when
  • keep copies of emails and letters that you send and also replies that you receive. The 'Writing an effective letter of complaint' guide gives more information.

My complaint has not been resolved - what can I do?

If you have reached deadlock with the train company and your complaint has not been resolved you can contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service, as well as:

Transport Focus (opens in a new window)
(online complaint form available)
0300 123 2350
Email: advice@transportfocus.org.uk

London TravelWatch (opens in a new window)
(online complaint form available)
169 Union Street
London
SE1 0LL
Tel: 020 3176 2999
Email: enquiries@londontravelwatch.org.uk

Other useful contacts

Office of Rail and Road (opens in a new window)
(online contact form available)
1 Kemble Street
London
WC2B 4AN
Tel: 020 728 2018

National Rail Enquiries (opens in a new window)
(online help section)
Tel: 03457 484950

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: May 2016

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.

For further information please contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, which provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit the Citizens Advice website (opens in a new window) or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.

© 2017 itsa Ltd.

The county council is not responsible for this information.