Refunds for late or cancelled trains may be cut

Passengers at Euston station in London following train cancellations last July - Yui Mok/PA
Passengers at Euston station in London following train cancellations last July - Yui Mok/PA

Long-suffering rail commuters could be hit by proposals to make ‘Delay Repay’ compensation less generous for late-running trains, The Telegraph can reveal.

The Government has discussed raising the minimum delay threshold for repayments from 15 minutes to half an hour, The Telegraph understands.

Delay Repay is a nationwide scheme under which commuters can apply for compensation if they experience a delay in getting to their destination because of a cancelled or late-running service.

The amount of compensation depends on which train company a passenger is travelling with, the ticket they have bought and the length of their delay.

Train companies have different compensation schemes, with most, but not all, operating a minimum threshold of 15 minutes.

A crowded platform at Earlsfield train station - Kirsty O'Connor/PA
A crowded platform at Earlsfield train station - Kirsty O'Connor/PA

However, there have been discussions within Whitehall of increasing this to half an hour, Government sources have indicated.

Senior rail industry sources confirmed that plans to increase the threshold have long been mooted.

But if ministers decide to press ahead with such a move it would be hugely controversial. Passengers have had to put up with miserable commuting conditions over the last year, with journeys disrupted by rolling strike action since June.

The disruption continued last week, with RMT members across a number of train companies staging walkouts on Saturday and Thursday. Further strikes are planned on March 30 and April 1.

On strike days, season ticket holders have been able to claim compensation for the value of one day’s travel.

The latest official statistics show the lowest proportion of trains arriving within 15 minutes of their planned schedules since records began.

In the third quarter of 2022-23, train cancellation rates soared to their highest ever level, with 4.5 per cent of services cancelled.

Delay compensation claims meanwhile increased by one-third between July and October 2018 and July and October 2022, from 0.71 delay claims per planned train to 0.94.

The amount of money paid out by train companies to passengers has swung wildly in recent years as commuting patterns were upended by the pandemic. Figures going up to 2021-22 show that compensation in England and Wales peaked at £89,407,000 in 2019-20, before collapsing in 2020-21 to £6,384,000, and then bouncing back to £39,707,000 in 2021-22.

Louise Haigh, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, criticised the Government over the proposals.

“Shambolic services are failing passengers and instead of demanding better, the Conservatives want them to pay the price,” she told The Telegraph.

“The message this sends is clear - under the Conservatives, our failing rail services are here to stay.”

She added: “The next Labour government will put passengers back at the heart of our railways, and build the infrastructure fit for the century ahead, unlocking jobs and growth."

The reduction in the generosity of Delay Repay could be counterbalanced by changes to make it more straightforward for customers to submit claims.

Centralising the process for compensation so that passengers have a single website and a “one-click” process to make a claim are among the options under review.

The changes are being considered as part of wider reforms to rail fares to rationalise a sprawling system that has left Britain with 55 million ticket types.

A DfT spokesman said the department did not comment on "speculation".