For those who don't know, the UK rail network was largely privatised in the 1990s. Whether or not rail privatisation is a good thing is still very much up for debate, but even most pro-privatisation people feel the way it was done wasn't the right way! One upshot is that most non-trivial journeys will involve travel on trains operated by more than one train company.

Let's consider a hypothetical journey, A to D with a change of trains at C. The A-C journey is to be operated by TrainCoA, C-D by TrainCoB. Unfortunately, the A-C train is cancelled, so you end up getting a later train A-B, another B-C, and then a later train than you'd planned C-D. Oh, and then the C-D train you eventually caught was very late too. Everything was bought on a single ticket.

In this situation, which train company do claim compensation from? TrainCoA, as their initial cancellation was your first delay? TrainCoB, as their C-D delay was the largest delay on your journey? TrainCoC, who ran the A-B journey that you got instead, as they were the first company who's trains you managed to take? Or can you take advantage of the privatised nature of the system, review the compensation policies of all three train operating companies, and apply for compensation from whichever company has the most generous compensation for your sequence of delays? (Many of the companies have different minimum delays before compensation is due, and different exclusions on what their delay compensation covers....)

  • This is, properly speaking, the British railway network. The Northern Irish network has always been run separately, and was not privatized.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 18:32

5 Answers 5


I asked National Rail Enquiries about this, the part of ATOC (Association of Train Operating Companies) who provide timetable queries, and call themselves "definitive source of information for all passenger rail services on the National Rail network in England, Wales and Scotland". Their website also hots the National Rail Conditions of Carriage which Andrew quoted in his answer.

NRE have come back with a rather vague answer:

I understand there were delays on two legs of the journey. You may contact the train companies that operate services on the two routes, where there were delays.  

Please use the following link to locate contact details of the train companies concerned:


That would appear to say that you can complain to any company running trains over the part of the route where you suffered any delay! That didn't sound correct, so I then asked another part of ATOC, and after checking with the Fares and Retailing team I've been given this answer:

We would recommend that a claim be made to either the TOC that caused the initial delay, or where multiple TOC delays are involved, the TOC which carried them for the longer part of their journey. In the small number of cases where this is not obvious, the customer can choose who they claim from but they can only claim under one passengers' charter, and will be subject to that charter for the calculation of any refund due on the whole value of their ticket.

So, it seems there's no definitive answer written into the contracts, and as a customer you do have a bit of a choice in the case of multiple delays. This means it's worth reading through the different passenger's charters carefully, to work out if one company pays more compensation for your delay than another!

Also, it's worth considering how you claim - paper or online. Cross Country Trains operate on lots of routes, and allow you to claim by emailing them a photo of your ticket, cut in half, rather than forcing you to find a form that they've always run out of, and post it with your own stamp....


I cannot find a definitive answer, but the National Rail Conditions of Carriage are supposed to cover this. They say:

Where delays, cancellations or poor service arise for reasons within the control of a Train Company or Rail Service Company, you are entitled to compensation in accordance with the arrangements set out in that Train Company’s Passenger’s Charter. This can be obtained from the relevant Train Company’s ticket offices, customer relations office and internet sales site.

I read that to say that it's the company(ies) that were due to operate the train you were originally planning to get - in this case, A-C. I suspect you certainly have no claim against the C-D company. However, the usual law in the UK would, I think (IANAL), imply it's the company you bought the ticket from, as they are the one you have a contract with. That's certainly where I would start.

Another option is to contact your local Citizens' Advice Bureau. They are normally helpful, and have an advice page here, but it doesn't directly address this situation.

  • 1
    Well, I suspect according to the NRCC, you can claim for both delays against both companies, using their relevant schemes. As you can see the wording is vague. But I assume you bought the ticket from one operator only, which will make that complicated, since the ticket prices aren't separated. Also, in law I suspect the operator you purchased from is the only one you have a complaint against (analogous to complaining to the retailer when a courier fails to deliver). So as I say, that's where I'd start in practice. Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 12:55
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    Each delay on its own is too small for a claim, but the total delay over the whole journey is enough. Not sure if I can claim from the TOC I bought the ticket from, as I didn't travel on any of their trains - they just have the easiest to use website! It's certainly a mess....
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 12:58
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    Well, you may have answered your own question - is it really worth the hassle? :) As I say, though, in law, I suspect you have a legitimate claim against the company you bought the ticket from, irrespective of the NRCC - they failed to provide the service you paid for. Look at this way - they should certainly be advising you who to claim against, if it isn't them. Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 13:02
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    3 minutes of form filling for a 40 quid refund, after an hour's delay? I'd say it's worth the hassle! And the more people who claim what they're entitled to for delays, the more incentive they have to run their trains on time in the first place...
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 9:13
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    I think for that I wouldn't think it worth the hassle, to be honest. (And I reckon 3 minutes is very optimistic :-)
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 9:44

It seems not to matter who you claim compensation from: there seem to be rules governing which company is held responsible for any individual passenger's delay and, if you claim from the wrong company, they'll pass your claim on to the right one.

At least, that's what I infer from a situation in which, anticipating delays, I took an earlier Northern Rail train than I'd planned, which was indeed delayed. I made my the connection to the Cross Country train on which I had a reserved seat and then that train was delayed even more. I claimed from Cross Country and they passed my claim on to Northern, who compensated me.


I am aware of a UK website called Train Refunds (although have never used it).

TrainRefunds is a completely free service for commuters who are tired of poor performance and late running trains. There aim is to bring commuters together to make sure that you get the refunds that you are entitled to.

Their service lets users enter details of delays that can be claimed for. Every user has access to that information (every delay entered on every route) to make sure that everyone gets to claim.

They provide:

  • Details of the train operating companies including their addresses, contact numbers and refund policies so that you know what you are entitled to.
  • Access to be able to enter delays and see the delays that other users have registered.
  • An email at the end of each week listing all delays on your route so you can make sure that you get to claim. You can stop the weekly email if you wish.

More info can be found here:


  • It looks like it relies on commuters in a route to record the delays, so that others can use it, so I'm not sure how good their coverage is? It also looks more aimed at commuters rather than occasional travellers
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 12:57
  • @Gagravarr I agree with you. Commuters are however travellers, just on a daily basis. So for those people who use the train on a daily basis, it maybe beneficial. Having never used the site, I cannot give definitive feedback
    – Simon
    Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 12:59
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    The compensation arrangements for season tickets are very different though...
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 13:29
  • @Gagravarr Ah I see...Good to know, thx
    – Simon
    Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 14:07

According to National Rail, you need to claim from the company you bought your ticket from:

Refunds - General questions

4. How do I get my refund?

To receive a refund you must claim from where you bought your ticket. Your claim will be considered without undue delay and any compensation due will be paid within 14 days of your claim being agreed by the retailer.

5. How will I receive my refund?

You will receive your refund by the same method that you used to pay for the ticket, unless you agree to a different method of repayment. The retailer will pay the refund amount without deducting any administration fee.

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    That's for a refund though, which is different. Refunds are where you have a flexible ticket and no longer want it, which isn't the same as when you have a ticket and use it and are delayed and entitled to compensation
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 17:40

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