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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 July, 2003, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
Website promises commuter cash-back
It's no fun being stuck on a delayed train, but you are at least entitled to compensation. A new website aims to help frustrated passengers who aren't claiming their due.

Underground commuters
Counting the minutes, but do they know about compensation?
Rail passengers have had a tough time of it lately. The recent news of a rise in delays across the network was compounded by the lifting of a cap on season ticket prices.

Mark Mainwood, himself a weary commuter, may not have a magic wand to make things right, but he is at least trying to sprinkle some fairy dust at the feet of beleaguered travellers.

He has set up a website - www.trainrefunds.co.uk - which aims to help regular passengers, including those who use London's Tube, claim compensation which is rightly theirs.

All rail companies are obliged to compensate passengers affected by severe delays.

Extra compensation

Season ticket holders automatically get money off their next ticket if the line they regularly use fails to meet punctuality targets.

If your journey is delayed by... more than one hour... you will be entitled to compensation in the form of travel vouchers
National Conditions of Carriage

But many don't realise that they could claim extra cash in the form of vouchers, even if the rail company makes the grade on overall performance.

The situation for London Underground passengers is slightly different, but could be equally advantageous. Tube users do not automatically get money off their monthly or yearly pass if their trains are unreliable.

But they can claim for a full refund of a single fare if their train is 15 minutes late or more.

It sounds complicated, which is why Mr Mainwood, 31, has devised a website which will do much of the work for you. The site relies on ordinary commuters to be the eyes and ears for their line - if they get caught in a severe delay, they e-mail the site (and receive a small cash credit in return).

Uniting commuters

Subscribers, who pay a 5 annual membership fee, enter the details of their regular commute into the site, and receive an e-mail at the end of each week listing the delays on their line. They are also given directions on how to apply for compensation.

Scotrail trains
All rail companies are obliged to pay compensation
"The idea behind the site is to bring people together so they know what they are entitled to and what the train companies are offering," says Mr Mainwood, an IT worker in the City of London.

The service will be useful for those commuters who use companies such as Anglian, First Great Eastern and Scotrail, which offer refunds over and above the statutory amount on a season ticket.

The reason for this is that compensation on season tickets is not judged on one journey, but the train company's performance over a period of time.

So while a commuter could be caught in one or two horrendous delays, they might not get a discount on their yearly ticket. Nevertheless, they are eligible for additional compensation.

Untapped market

"Not all lines do this, but those that do often keep quiet about it. The onus seems to be on the passenger to find out and make the claim."

Mr Mainwood has claimed "five or six" times in the past year from his train company First Great Eastern, receiving 5 in rail vouchers on each occasion.

Passenger action websites have not always been successful in the past - but there is a cash payoff to using this site
Mark Mainwood

He also sees a vastly untapped market among Tube users, many of whom don't even know they can claim a refund for being delayed.

Since you only have to be delayed 15 minutes on the Underground to qualify for a refund, it's likely that many passengers will hardly notice they are late.

Subscribers to the site get an e-mail every Friday listing the delays on their line.

It's early days for trainrefunds.co.uk, admits Mr Mainwood, who says he has about 60 members so far. He confesses that he needs more subscribers - the more he gets, the more efficient the site will be at logging all delays.

"Passenger action websites have not always been successful in the past, because they haven't offered anything," he says. "What sets this site apart is the prospect that by using it there is a cash payoff."

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