A rule which specifically prevents delayed rail passengers from claiming for additional costs they incur such as taxi and hotels is to be scrapped this week – but getting firms to actually fork out for these expenses is unlikely to be easy.
On Sunday the National Rail Conditions of Carriage, which apply to train firms across Great Britain, will be updated, and the clause which says that companies aren’t liable for ‘consequential loss’ – additional costs arising from delays – other than in “exceptional circumstances” will be removed.
It will be replaced with a line saying you can claim using your statutory rights, such as the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – but there are no guarantees this will mean you will be able to successfully claim in practice.
See our Train Delays guide for your rights if you’re late arriving or your journey is cancelled.
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What is changing?
The National Rail Conditions of Carriage currently includes a section on the limitations of a train company’s liability.
It says “Train companies will not accept liability for any loss (including consequential loss), caused by the delay and/or cancellation of a train service. However, they will consider additional claims in exceptional circumstances.”
The rules will be updated to say you if you are delayed you can claim via the train company delay scheme, using the firm’s passenger charter or by relying on your statutory rights such as the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – though you cannot recover the same money twice.
The change is a result of a campaign by consumer group Which? as it was concerned train firms were failing to make passengers aware of their rights when there were problems.
Will I really be able to claim for taxis, hotels etc?
From Sunday the specific rule which prevents you claiming for consquential loss will be removed – but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to easily claim.
The relevant piece of legislation here is the Consumer Rights Act, which has applied to the rail industry since 1 October 2016 and means you have more rights if things go wrong. But so far it has been relatively untested.
It doesn’t specifically talk about consequential loss payouts – but it does say that services must be carried out with “reasonable care and skill”. So from Sunday could try claiming for consequential loss if you believe the train firm didn’t provide a service with reasonable care and skill.
This is a very new area though and it remains to be seen what rail firms actually do. So while it’s good the National Rail Conditions of Carriage has been updated to reflect this, there are no guarantees it will be any easier recouping any money you have lost.
How to try and claim for additional expenses
If you do try and claim for consequential losses from a train company it’s worth highlighting this change to the rules. To claim you need to:
- Ask the train company to refund your expenses. Explain what happened and include any evidence of additional expenses, eg taxi receipts. It may help to state you’re making the claim under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and quote the relevant section (likely to be section 49 reasonable care and skill).
- If refused you can escalate your claim. Your next avenue is to escalate it to an industry watchdog, such as Transport Focus, or an alternative dispute resolution scheme, if the company directs you to one it is signed up to.
- After that it’s court… This would probably the small claims court, and as we say above, this is a very untested area, so you’ll have to weigh up whether you think it’s worth it. See our Small Claims Court guide for more information.
See our Train Delays guide for further help.
How do I claim for delays?
All train firms have a passenger charter which sets out when it will pay compensation for delays.
In most cases you can claim if your journey is delayed by more than 30 minutes, regardless of what caused the delay – one train firm even pays you for delays of more than two minutes, and others will pay out after 15 minutes. Some, however, still use an old passenger charter style scheme and will only pay for delays of more than an hour, and if it’s the firm’s fault.
If you’re delayed:
- Keep hold of your tickets it’s much easier to claim if you have the original.
- Check what the train company will offer. (See individual firms’ policies.)
- Make a note of the delay and the reason for it. Request a claim form from the station, your train company’s website or by phone.
- Apply within the time limit, typically 28 days.
- If you’re rejected for compensation or a refund but still think you have a case, complain. If necessary, take your complaint to Transport Focus.
What do the train firms say?
A spokesperson for Rail Delivery Group, which represents train firms, said passengers would have to clear a “very high legal hurdle” to claim for consequential loss under the Consumer Rights Act.
They said: “Train companies are sorry whenever journeys are disrupted and we have been happy to work with the Government and the regulator to make clearer our customers rights.
“Nevertheless, it is important for our customers to understand that it is very unlikely they will be entitled to compensation for additional losses.”