Rail delay automatic compensation scheme launched by Virgin Trains
A system to automatically pay compensation to rail passengers hit by delays has been introduced in the UK for the first time.
Virgin Trains passengers will receive money directly on to their payment cards within three days if their journey is delayed by at least half an hour.
The scheme is available to people who buy Advance tickets through the operator's website or mobile app.
The Government has called for the system to be rolled out nationwide.
Virgin estimates that it will pay out an extra £2.8 million under the new scheme. This is because many people do not use the existing online claim form.
Some 5% of trains run by the operator were either cancelled, late by more than 30 minutes or failed to make a scheduled stop in the 12 months to September 19, according to Network Rail figures.
On that basis it was the joint second worst performing operator in England and Wales, behind Govia Thameslink Railway.
Around 3.5 million journeys on the West Coast Main Line will fall under the terms of the Automatic Delay Repay (ADR) system each year and be eligible for compensation if delayed.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin described the development as "fantastic news".
He said: " Virgin Trains are making the most of modern technology to improve the service customers get.
"Our plan is to make sure passengers across the country benefit from schemes like this and we are encouraging other operators to roll out similar schemes nationwide."
Mike Hewitson, head of policy at i ndependent watchdog Transport Focus, said: " This is a great step forward and we would like to see this system introduced across all operators and ticket types."
Phil Whittingham, managing director of Virgin Trains, said: "We're proud of our record of customer service at Virgin Trains and are always looking for new ways to innovate for the benefit of customers."
ADR only applies for Advance tickets when a specific train has been booked.
A seat reservation is not enough and j ourneys with multiple connections across different operators are not eligible.
Delays for journeys not suitable for ADR can still be claimed for in the normal way.
Here are the levels of compensation on Virgin Trains:
:: Delays of 30-59 minutes - 50% of the cost of a single ticket or the relevant portion of a return ticket
:: Delays of 60-119 minutes - 100% of the cost of a single ticket or the relevant portion of a return ticket
:: Delays of 120 minutes or longer - 100% of the cost of a single or both portions of a return ticket
Virgin policy states that it does not normally accept claims in cases where trains are delayed if the passenger was notified of the delay before they bought the ticket.