Train passengers are failing to claim millions of pounds owed to them in compensation for delays and cancellations, according to the rail watchdog.
The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said passengers are either unsure how to make a claim – or completely unaware they can even lodge a claim for compensation.
Collectively, the 75% of people who are failing to claim are thought to be missing out on over £100 million in unclaimed cash.
Just one in ten people (11%) regularly make a claim when they are entitled to, while nearly seven in ten people (68%) have never made a claim.
Train operating companies usually pay compensation in the form of rail vouchers, but the ORR said this has "a negative impact on consumers' propensity to claim", and many people also fail to redeem the vouchers in full, thereby missing out on the total compensation they were paid.
The ORR said: "It seems clear that passengers' inherent knowledge of their rights is low and that this is due, at least in part, to an inability to access the information that exists and a lack of more readily available information when delays occur."
Almost three quarters of people (74%) said train companies do "not very much" or "little at all" to proactively provide information about compensation when there are delays.
The train operating companies told the ORR that they provide this information in their Passenger Charters (published on their websites), as well as at station ticket offices, or via their customer services and on social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
But in most cases, the ORR says this is "not sufficient to help consumers be aware of or exercise their rights".
The watchdog is now drawing up its own code of practice for train operators to adhere to on ticketing and compensation information.
Can I claim a refund if my train is delayed?
You can claim compensation for delays – depending on how long you have been delayed for. According to the National Rail Conditions of Carriage, train operating companies (TOCs) must issue refunds at a set minimum to delayed passengers (see below).
How much money will I get back for a delayed train?
According to those Conditions of Carriage rules, train firms only have to pay a part-refund if trains are delayed by over an hour. This minimum refund is: 20% of a single ticket (10% of a return, unless both legs were delayed. However, most TOCs pay more than this, with the standard refund being: a 50% refund for a delay of 30 minutes or more, double that for an hour delay or longer.
Most TOCs have a "delay repay" section or similar, at which you can apply for your refund quickly and easily. The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) lists every train company's website at atoc.org/train-companies.
I've got a season ticket. Do I get a refund?
Yes, but season ticket-holders do not get the same refund as single ticket-holders. Instead, their refunds are calculated using the proportional daily cost of the price of their annual ticket. So what they get depends on price of their ticket. As an easy rule, season ticket-holders tend to get short-changed on refunds compared to single ticket-holders.
How do I get my refund?
If you can't claim online at your TOC's website (see above), you should be able to pick up a compensation form, at the ticket office. However, you MUST make a claim within 28 days of completing your journey or your claim will be invalid.
How quickly will my refund come?
Refunds can take up to a month to arrive. At the time of claiming, you can ask to receive your refund in the form of cash (only if you are obtaining a full and immediate refund) or in the form of rail vouchers, which can be sued with any train company. These last for a year from the date of issue, but the frustrating thing is that you cannot currently use them when booking journeys online.