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Rail season ticket refunds: passengers need clarity and reassurance

Many rail passengers have thousands of pounds tied up in season tickets they can no longer use because of the coronavirus. Independent watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch are calling for improvements in the way the existing process is communicated to passengers.

The watchdogs have called on the rail industry to make the following crystal clear to passengers:

  • That claims will be backdated to a 17 March ‘hand in’ date (the day after Government said ‘stay at home’) and not the date they are received by the train company or retailer
  • That passengers do not have to physically go to their station to hand in their ticket
  • That the amount to be refunded will not be affected by how quickly claims are processed.

They are also calling for the £10 admin fee for processing season ticket refunds to be waived in England, as has already happened in Scotland and Wales.

Transport Focus and London TravelWatch Chief Executive Anthony Smith said:

“This is a very worrying time for people who are facing financial uncertainty. No one should feel they have to make a special trip to their station to hand in their season ticket for fear of getting less money back if they don’t.

“If passengers post their ticket they shouldn’t need to worry that they’ll lose out because their claim is sitting in a pile of letters waiting to be opened.

“We welcome the decision to backdate claims to 17 March – the government and rail industry have done the right thing by passengers. But train companies now need to step up and communicate this to passengers as clearly as possible.”

The watchdogs have reviewed how easy transport operators are making it to claim money back. Their summary reveals a lack of consistency across the country.

Notes to editors
Some companies mention the decision to backdate, but greater clarity and reassurance will help reduce anxiety and prevent unnecessary trips to stations that risk spreading the virus.

Advice for passengers:
If you have purchased a ticket but decide not to travel as a result of coronavirus, you can apply for a refund on most ticket types.

While some train companies have also waived the usual £10 admin fee for season ticket refunds, for most the usual terms and conditions for season ticket refunds are unchanged.

Check online if your train operator is offering to waive the £10 admin fee. Transport Focus has produced a summary of what different transport companies are saying about ticket refunds.

Passengers will need to allow the rail industry time to deal with the record number of refund requests. But at a time when money will be tight for many people passengers need refunds to be processed quickly, with clarity about the value of the refund and when they will receive it.

Check your own calculations before submitting your refund request – so you know roughly what to expect. The National Rail website season ticket calculator can help you do this.

Press office contact
Members of the media can contact the press office during office hours on 0300 123 2170.

For out of hours media enquiries please call 0300 123 2181.

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