How (and why) we built TrainClaimer
A brief history of how TrainClaimer started life, and how it evolved
Posted 10th October 2018
"How many times a day do trains get whooshed through this station to make up time?"
That was the question I wondered to myself while standing on a drizzly train station platform in November 2016. I'd just stepped away from the yellow line, as instructed by the PA system overlords, to allow the second train in a row to shoot through. Both of those trains should have stopped, but because they were both running late, the Thameslink control room Gods had decided I was going to be even later to work, simply because I happened to commute from Flitwick.
Flitwick is a medium-sized town in rural Bedfordshire, one stop short of the end of the Thameslink line. Its station attracts travellers from a similar-sized adjoining town which doesn't have a station, and lots of villages surrounding it. Its car park is frequently full by 8:30am, and whenever a single train is cancelled at rush hour, the platforms become uncomfortably crowded.
It also seemed to be among the three stations which frequently had trains cancelled simply to make up time. It seemed that trains stopping at St Albans, Harpenden, Luton Airport Parkway, Luton and Bedford was sacrosanct - even though all of those stations had extra trains stopping there, while Leagrave, Harlington and Flitwick just had 4 Thameslink trains an hour and nothing more.
So, I setup a website to see if I was right.
The website - which has since been expanded and renamed TrainClaimer.com - initially did only one thing: Collect information about every Thameslink train travelling between Bedford, Luton, St Albans and London, and work out if any individual stops were cancelled. I wasn't interested in services where the entire train was cancelled - only those which departed its origin, arrived at its destination, but was cancelled at at least one stop along the way.
The results were interesting. It turns out that the number of trains I was calculating were whooshers was roughly the same at St Albans as it was at Flitwick. However, in percentage terms, Flitwick was affected twice as much because St Albans had roughly double the number of trains.
People started to see the website and kept asking for various bits of data so they could test their own varied theories about the train services from their station. I changed the site to monitor all Thameslink trains going anywhere on the network, and provided a list of station stops for every train which was colour-coded based on whether it was cancelled, late, very late or on time. I expanded the graphs and charts showing all the data that users had requested, and allowed visitors to select a date range and various filters so they could, for example, see specifically how good or bad the afternoon peak time service was over a two-week period rather than just a single day.
Then Thameslink changed their Delay Repay website.
The new form asked for lots more information which, in my opinion, was unnecessary. They asked for the expiry date of your ticket and whether it was a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. Fair enough. But then they asked for the start date of the ticket also.
The most annoying new question was "scheduled arrival time". Most people know what time their train is timetabled to depart the station they board at, not least because it's displayed on the boards and announced on the platforms. But nobody I asked could tell me what time their train was scheduled to arrive at their destination. So, Thameslink were (and still do) asking delayed passengers who are claiming compensation, to cross-reference their journey with a timetable or journey planner. Utterly pointless.
"There's got to be a better way!" I sighed.
So, I set about coding a big upgrade to TrainClaimer - allowing people to easily submit Delay Repay claims through the site. The goal was to make it as simple as possible to make a claim. Ideally, users would simply have to find their train, upload a photo of their ticket, and press a button.
And that's exactly how it panned out.
Once you've added your ticket to TrainClaimer.com you can then add Delay Repay claims with just one click. We do the hard work for you and submit the claim on your behalf to the train operating company who was responsible for delaying your journey. You get 100% of the claim straight into your bank account, PayPal balance or as a cheque or travel voucher through your door. You can even choose to donate individual claims to charity.
Subscriptions start at £0.75 a month with 2 free claims each month, or £7.50 annually with 25 free claims included each year. Or, you can pay-as-you go with credit purchases available from just 8p per claim.
But there's more!
Subscribers also get access to exclusive features - not least our automatic compensation claim process. Just tell us your regular journey, which can differ each day, and we'll automatically trigger a claim for you if that journey is delayed. For those who travel more sporadically, you can add one-off ad-hoc journeys for a specific date and we'll do the same.
There's also the option to have a daily email sent to you each morning containing the details of yesterday's trains - and you can start a claim right from that email!