The Government has taken emergency control of the rail network to prevent its collapse
Commuters will have their rail season tickets refunded if they decide to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department for Transport (DfT) says anyone holding an advance ticket will be able to refund it free of charge.
All season ticket holders will also be able to claim a refund for time unused on their tickets free of administrative charges.
Ticket holders should contact their retailer for details.
The move is part of a package of measures to support rail companies during the outbreak.
In order to prevent the rail companies from collapsing, the Government will take over all the risks as well as revenues for operating trains for at least six months.
The Government says rail operators will continue to run services day-to-day for a small predetermined management fee.
This will ensure that trains necessary for key workers and essential travel continue to operate, the DfT says.
Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps says: “We are taking this action to protect the key workers who depend on our railways to carry on their vital roles, the hardworking commuters who have radically altered their lives to combat the spread of coronavirus, and the frontline rail staff who are keeping the country moving.
“People deserve certainty that the services they need will run or that their job is not at risk in these unprecedented times. We are also helping passengers get refunds on advance tickets to ensure no-one is unfairly out of pocket for doing the right thing.”
The Government is concerned that allowing rail operators to go bust would cause significantly more disruption to passengers and higher costs to the taxpayer.
A DfT spokesperson says he railways have already seen a 70% drop in passenger numbers since the outbreak started, but would not give exact figures.
With more people working from home and adopting social distancing, rail fare revenues have been hit, with total ticket sales down by two-thirds from the same time last year.
Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, says: “The industry strongly welcomes the Department for Transport’s offer of temporary support and while we need to finalise the details, this will ensure that train companies can focus all their efforts on delivering a vital service at a time of national need.
“We would like to thank our people, who continue to do an incredible job in difficult circumstances.”
How to apply for a refund
If you wish to apply for a refund you will need to contact the retailer or train company you purchased your ticket from to find out what you are entitled to.
Who is eligible?
If you purchased an advance ticket before 7am on 23 March you are eligible to claim a full refund for free.
You must have at least seven days remaining on a monthly or annual season ticket.
On a pre-paid weekly ticket you must have at least three days remaining.
Some rail companies may require three months remaining on an annual season ticket.
The Government says monthly and annual season ticket holders will still be charged a £10 admin fee if they wish to refund their tickets.
What if you bought your ticket through work?
If you have purchased your season ticket with a company loan, you should contact your human resources department first.