Monday, 20 January 2014

6 Ways South West Trains Seem To Block Your Refund

(A stalled train due to the 3rd rail freezing over for the 3rd time this year...)
UPDATE: There were also frozen third rails in 2015... (7 Jan 2015)
and 2016... (8 Jan 2016)

Why not watch this video for How to get a South West Trains refund, and all my tips and tricks and links to the form are below:

You're probably here to find out How To get a refund for a delay or cancellation on South West Trains.

Your delay would almost have been massive enough for you to Google this.

I completely understand that from time to time, delays happen on all railways.

But despite our system of trains in the UK being run purely for profit, I can't avoid using South West Trains... and to me, for some reason, they seem to bury these details on their website.

- the link to the form you can download to send off for your refund - right click on this


(it's a link to a pdf - click on the link above to open it, then click on either the 'download' arrown button to save it, or 'right click' on the form and select 'Save as' to save it onto your desktop)

I don't write factual articles for a living... and I'm sure there are inaccuracies in here... but this is my (sadly very experienced) personal perception of 6 Ways South West Trains seem to try and block your refund.
(Work In Progress...)

(another delay caused by the 3rd rail freezing over...)

#1 Not telling you refunds are available

I haven't heard any tannoy announcements explaining refunds are available.

There don't seem to be posters on platforms or concourses explaining refunds exist, let alone the refund process.

(No idea what caused this one, to be honest, it's hard keeping up with them. Tip below...)

#2 Refunds are kept hidden

SWT uses euphemistic language when referring to them (the website and twitter feed use terms like "Contact Customer Services" or "National Rail Conditions of Carriage" and the refund form itself has the somewhat abstract massive heading "Any concerns?"

(South West Trains seems very scared of using the word "Refund" - it appears only once on the form, without context or explanation.)

SWT helpfully says you do not need this form in order to claim, but the form does list the details that might help expedite your refund.
(notwithstanding these 6 ways they appear to block your refund)

(SWT claimed this was a 'lineside fire' but it was actually a power cable fire.
The difference between 'no-refund' and 'refund'. Confusing, huh?)

#3 The refund details are kept hidden

South West Trains have eccentric rules for issuing refunds: Clear details of what constitutes a delay eligible for a refund are not printed on the form.
(But hey, they do say you can "fax" it.)

You must have been delayed by 60 mins or more - which seems arbitrary, if for instance you can't get on a train because the replacement is 4 cars long, or if you miss the replacement from platform 9 while you're sat on platform 12 etc.

Perhaps South West Trains could deny that it receives compensation from Network Rail for delays longer than 5 minutes?

I will publish the denial here if it is incorrect.

If not, this might mean that South West Trains actually profits from every single delay over 5 minutes for things like signal failures, cable fires, level crossing failures, power failures, landslide, land slips, poorly maintained trees that fall down when it's not stormy etc.

- Do not claim for suicides...

...but not refunding for acts of vandalism seems unfair when in some cases it could be seen as poor maintenance.
(Should we put a protective fence round that vital bit of infrastructure? Nahhh...)

I'm still not sure whether 'extreme weather' is covered - SWT says not - but this sometimes hides poor apparent basic rail maintenance:

So, frozen 3rd rails on a normal cold night (-1C temps)? Rails buckling on a nice sunny day? Seasonal normal forecast snow of 5cm? Embankments that collapse under a single heavy rainfall after possible years of poor maintenance or inappropriate tamping? Trees regularly falling in the Witley area on non-stormy days even?

Thanks for not issuing refunds for these, South West Trains.

4 Post and Paper
It's 2014, so of course you have to apply with your paper ticket. You've got a photocard, a 7 day season ticket, and you paid by credit card.

No dice, loser, you've got to apply for your refund by post.

Which means waiting for your ticket to expire.

Which means you holding on to your paper ticket (even the barriers are against you here).

Which also means remembering the details for the application (how quaint).

Write your delays on the back of your ticket, for your reference.

If possible, more bureaucracy, photocopy your application in case you get nonsense further down the line (from the other blocks below).

I claimed for so many legitimate delays in one month last year, that I accidentally stapled one ticket to the wrong form.
The letter in reply sympathised with my delay, and said I qualified for a refund, but would only do so on sending over the correct ticket (which was stapled to another form that didn't qualify).
No refund.
Bit more profit for shareholders.
Boom boom!

You're supposed to apply within 28 days (which is a pain in the arse if it's a 7 day season ticket, and you'll have to put all of this in the post too, which adds its own delays...)

It's also confusing if you have more than one delay on your ticket.

I'm convinced I had only one delay refunded even though I had 2 massive delays on a 7 day season.
I didn't understand the PR guff in their letter - it seemed to say the refund was limited by the "Passengers Charter". Either way, well done SWT.

5 More paper
- Your refund will come in the form of Rail Vouchers.
It won't really cover your costs
(especially if you're late for work and have those hours docked, or getting the babysitter to stay longer, or paying mates to cover the work you're meant to be doing etc etc etc)

There's an obscure way of calculating the refund, but, of course like me, you'll be delighted that there is some recognition the service was pisspoor.

Enjoy the paper vouchers and avoid block #5 where you lose or don't use the vouchers.

They now offer payment of compensation by paypal, vouchers, a transfer to your debit/credit card or cheque.
But you have to reply to let them know now how you'd like to be paid.
Which might be another step/obstacle to you following through and getting your refund.
Ker. Ching.

6 More blocking

You might navigate all of this, and still have a letter saying sorry but no refund.

But with no clear details of how to claim, and what is and isn't covered, and trying to get round the 5 blocks, you may very well give up.

By now it'll be 3 months or more since the delay, and there might have been new delays to enrage you.

Be patient and persevere - you have skin in the game - and if you've got photocopies and photos it'll help you stand your ground.

Taking photos and tweeting about it also serves as a good aide memoire for the seemingly deliberate paperwork put between you and a refund.

Do leave a comment underneath if any of this is inaccurate or if any of this helped.

Even better, send me a picture of your vouchers! (you can tweet me here)

Why I've written this:
I know that from time to time, a mechanical railway in the real world encounters delays.
And the staff who work for the company are great.

But, I'm just a normal dad, struggling financially while being held to fund a taxpayer-subsidised monopoly, and last year South West Trains filed profits of more than £26 million.

There seems to be a financial incentive to make the refund process oblique, hard, even convoluted.

Why not follow @fairfaresnow to help the lobby for a better system?


Thanks for stopping by - why not follow me by email here...


  1. Thank you for this, unable to find that form on South West trains website - the only link I found on there doesn't work...

    1. Ain't that funny. It's completely buried amongst the pages of clunky legalese.
      If it helps, I'd really appreciate it if you forwarded this link to help anyone else - it links to this page!


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