UK: Cash refunds will be provided for people who had booked tickets for rail or coach journeys in England during the December 23-27 ‘Christmas travel window’ but who are now unable to travel as a result of the latest changes to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.
Refunds will be offered for journeys in England which were booked on or after November 24, when the government’s plan to ease Covid-19 pandemic restrictions during a ‘Christmas travel window’ was announced, and before the Prime Minister’s announcement on December 19 of the latest changes in regulations and guidance.
Following the Prime Minister’s statement at 16.00 on December 19, train operators initially told passengers they were sticking to the standard policy under which train-specific Advance tickets are not refundable, although some were offering e-vouchers for future travel. However some operators hinted that a change in policy might be coming.
On the morning of December 21 the government said it recognised that many people would have booked tickets based on previous advice, and the change in refund policy would ensure that they were not penalised for following the new rules.
‘It is imperative that we all follow the new measures and play our part in tackling this virus’, said Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps. ‘If you booked a coach or rail journey between December 23 and 27, you are entitled to a cash refund. This ensures no one is left out of pocket for doing the right thing: staying home in Tier 4, and elsewhere staying local and only meeting your Christmas bubble on Christmas day.’
The Department for Transport said operators would be able to issue refunds immediately, and passengers should check the website of their operator for details of how to claim. However, DfT asked people to be patient as operators were expected to be processing high volumes of refunds.
Anthony Smith, Chief Executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said ‘operators now need to make sure that their websites are crystal clear on how passengers can claim refunds, travel vouchers or make fee-free changes, depending on when they were due to travel.’