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When lockdown was announced, we worked with the rail industry to make sure it was as easy as possible for those with season or other tickets were able to get refunds. See our table below for what to expect from the organisations listed if you ask them for a refund. Please note this was last updated on 17 April and some information may now be out of date.
Below the table you can find our guide to claiming refunds during the pandemic.
Current rules on refunding rail season tickets
This guide sets out how the current system of refunds work and how to go about getting one.
The first key point to understand is that there is no ‘pause & resume’ option when it comes to season tickets. Maybe there should be, but at present there isn’t. Under current rules you cannot just ‘put it on hold’ for the next few weeks/months or ask for a refund for the days you do not use it. A refund works on the basis of you surrendering your ticket permanently and not using it again.
To get a refund you must contact the retailer you bought your season ticket from. As a result of the coronavirus, operators have set up online claim processes – so you no longer have to go to the ticket office in person. If in doubt, then contact your retailer.
The refund is calculated from the date the ticket was returned to the retailer. To reflect the special circumstances surrounding coronavirus this refund can be backdated up to a maximum of 56 days from when it is submitted, to the last date it was used. However, if you were unable to travel due to illness immediately before the government’s guidance was given in March, you can apply for this to be backdated further if you can supply evidence of the period you were ill.
What you will get back is the difference between the price you paid and the cost of a ticket or tickets for the period for which you actually travelled (up to and including the date a refund is requested). There may also be an administration charge of no more than £10.00.
So, if you have used an annual ticket for six months, they will work out how much you would have paid to travel for those six months if you hadn’t bought an annual ticket. It is not done on a pro-rata basis – so if you have only used six months (half the ticket) you will not get back half the remaining value. It will be less.
This is because of the discounts applied to season tickets. In simple terms, the longer your season ticket the greater the discount applied. So a weekly ticket has a lower average cost per day than a day ticket; a monthly has a lower daily cost than a weekly; with an annual ticket having the lowest daily cost of all.
When they calculate the cost of the travel you have used (six months in the example above) they use these higher ‘average cost’ figures. As a result, season tickets ‘run out’ of refund value over time. To get anything back on a weekly season you need at least three days left, and at least seven days left on a monthly. Annual tickets usually have little or no refund value after 10 months.
It is worth making your own calculations before submitting your refund request. The season ticket calculator on the National Rail website can help in this.
Special arrangements apply if you wish to amend the details of an existing season ticket. So if, for example, you are still travelling but have moved house or place of work, you can apply for what is known as a ‘changeover’ where you switch from the old journey to the new. Your new season ticket has to start on the day following surrender of the original ticket. If the new ticket is cheaper than the old one you will receive a refund pro-rata to the periods before and after the changeover.
As might be expected, train companies have received many refund requests. This has meant that processing is taking much longer than normal. We have pushed train companies to make it clear how long claims are taking and to keep passengers informed of progress. Look on the website of your retailer for details.
Transport for London Oyster and paper season ticket refunds
If you have purchased a season ticket for travel from TFL it will be held either on an Oyster card or as a paper ticket. Paper tickets are only available for purchase from a TFL Rail or Overground station. An Oyster card season ticket can be purchased at a TFL station, online or over the phone.
In both instances, the refund for a season ticket purchased from TFL is calculated in the same way as national rail season tickets.
Your refund will be worked out by subtracting the going-cost of a ticket for the amount of time you have used your season ticket, taken away from the price you paid initially for you season ticket. As with national rail season tickets, this is to account for the discounts that are applied to season tickets.
The only difference with other operators is that you will have to cancel your oyster card when you surrender your season ticket.
Ordinarily, TFL would charge a £5 admin fee for this cancellation. However due to the coronavirus it is waiving this fee.
Refunds for a season ticket on Oyster card
You will be entitled to a season ticket refund if you bought your ticket from TFL and there is:
- 6 weeks remaining on an Annual ticket
- 7 days remaining on a Monthly ticket
- 3 days remaining on a 7 Day ticket
This applies to all travelcard or bus and tram passes on Oyster card. Refunds can be claimed online.
Refund for a season ticket on paper
You will be entitled to the same refunds as above.
Currently you can only claim a refund from TFL if you bought your ticket at a London Overground or TfL Rail station. You can claim the refund by email – visit the TfL website to see how.
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