Season Tickets: Information for passengers seeking refunds during the Coronavirus crisis
Many passengers who use rail services in and around London may have bought season tickets which they now cannot use due to the coronavirus. With a strong 'do not travel message' from government, and many working from home, passengers have been seeking refunds.
This page outlines the key information passengers will need if they are making a season ticket refund request. We have been working with our partners at Transport Focus to call for improvements in the way the existing process is communicated to passengers, and will continue to work on behalf of passengers in the coming months.
We will be adding to our ‘FAQ’ section as new information becomes available. If your question is not answered here, please let us know and we will seek to provide you with an answer. You can contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Frequently asked questions
Am I entitled to a refund?
With people being advised only to make essential journeys, passengers who have already bought tickets are looking to get their money back. We have worked with Transport Focus to create a grid to help you understand what to expect from the organisations listed if you ask them for a refund. This grid can be found here. It lists the various train companies and ticket providers you may have bought your ticket from.
What are my rights to a refund or compensation?
If you have bought a ticket but decide not to travel as a result of Coronavirus, you can apply for a refund on most ticket types. Check the grid as mentioned above to see whether your ticket is eligible for a refund. You should return to the point of purchase to claim your refund. So, if you bought a season ticket via TfL which covers travel on National Rail services, you still need to go back to TfL to claim your refund. Transport Focus provides a helpful guide to your rights here.
How much will I get back?
This depends on what season ticket type you had, and how much time you have left at the time of surrendering it.
- If you have a paper season ticket, your refund claim 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.
- If you have been ill the refund can be backdated to the point you stopped using it, but you will need proof that you were ill, and you must not have started travelling again using your season ticket since.
- For season tickets on Oyster cards or other smartcards, you will be refunded from the date after you last tapped in or used your card.
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.
Despite our calls for the Government and rail companies to offer pro-rate refunds for people seeking refunds you will not be able to get a pro-rata refund on an annual season ticket. Annual season tickets are sold at a discount (about 25%) compared to the equivalent number of weekly tickets. Therefore, to put it another way, the last 10 weeks of travel are 'free'. For this reason, the 'free' part of the ticket is taken into account when calculating any refunds so this may mean that you will receive less than what you may have been expecting and sometimes there is little or no value left on a ticket that has been used for several months.
A helpful explanation and example of how this might be calculated is provided here.
You can also 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.
How can I apply for my refund?
Most ticket providers are now offering refunds via remote means – either online, via post or email or the telephone – to ensure passengers who bought their ticket from stations do not have to visit them in person to obtain a refund. You can check this on the grid.
You need to visit the website or call up the organisation you originally bought your season ticket from to apply for a refund. This should be signposted on their websites, or you can find the links to the refund and compensation pages of the various train operators listed here.
Can I ‘pause’ my season ticket and resume use later?
No. Unfortunately this is not an option. If you wish to get any money back from a season ticket you are no longer using, you will have to surrender it entirely and purchase a new ticket when you resume travel.
Transport for London Oyster and paper season ticket refunds
If you have bought 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 bought at a TfL station, online or over the phone.
In both instances, the refund for a season ticket bought from TfL is calculated in the same way as National Rail season tickets.
The only difference with other operators is that you will have to cancel your Oyster card when you surrender your season ticket. TfL would usually charge a £5 admin fee for this cancellation. However due to the Coronavirus it is waiving this fee.
Please note that you will need to claim a refund within eight weeks of last using your ticket.
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 are:
- six weeks remaining on an annual ticket
- seven days remaining on a monthly ticket
- three days remaining on a seven day ticket
This applies to all Travelcard or bus and tram passes on Oyster cards.
Refunds for a paper season ticket
You will be entitled to the same refunds as above.
If I bought my original season ticket before 2 January 2020, will this price be honoured when I return to work and have to buy a new ticket?
Unfortunately, season tickets cannot be backdated to a previous price and will be charged at the current rate if passengers need to buy a new one.
What can my season ticket provider do to help me with the administrative cost and burden of buying another season ticket via a loan?
The situation depends on whether the season ticket holder has applied for a refund or their loan provider has applied for a refund on their behalf.
It may be that the season ticket holder has applied for a refund and kept the refund balance themselves and is continuing to pay back the loan as a deduction from their salary. In this case, they may be able to use the refunded value as payment towards a new, shorter season ticket when they need to return to work.
If the loan provider has requested that the outstanding value be returned to them, effectively ‘paying off’ the loan, then a passenger would have to begin the process anew of applying for a loan, and buying a new season ticket, for whatever length they needed.
There are currently no plans to remove the £10 administration charge which is deducted from all season ticket refunds. London TravelWatch has asked the Government/the industry to think again and remove this charge which it thinks is unfair.Can season ticket providers offer partial refunds or season ticket extensions to those whose journeys have continued as they are key workers, but have taken a less costly journey as their place of work has changed?
If a less costly journey is being made, it is recommended that a changeover request is made so that the passenger can pay a lower price for an amended ticket. This means they can receive a partial refund, taking off the value that was used from issue until surrender of their original season ticket. The remaining credit would be used towards a new season ticket for the shorter (and lower cost) journey up to the date of expiry of the original season ticket. Any extra credit would be returned to the passenger as a refund. Unfortunately a change like this cannot be backdated; it would have to have a start date of the day after the day the original ticket is surrendered
Will season ticket providers take into account the fact the service provided is much reduced/different to what was expected when the ticket was originally bought?
Unfortunately ticket prices remain the same even in cases where a reduced/different service is being provided to that expected when the original ticket was bought.
Similarly, can a season ticket for a car park be extended for use when travel resumes, if it is past the cut off date for a partial refund?
All season tickets, including non-rail, can be backdated to when they were last used – as far back as 17 March, and refunded. There would not be an ‘extension’ when the customer starts to use the car park on a new season ticket, but credit would be refunded and could be used to buy a new season ticket.
How long will it take for me to get my refund?
Due to the unprecedented number of claims for season ticket refunds, the length of time it takes to refund passengers has been extended to 56 days from the previous 28 days. London TravelWatch thinks this is too long and has asked the industry to make the process quicker.