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My £185 thello refund has been derailed by Rail Europe

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At the start of 2020 I bought, through the train ticket agency Rail Europe, two tickets for the sleeper train from Paris to Venice, travelling on 9 June 2020. The train was run by an Italian train operator, thello, and the tickets cost £185.

In March 2020, thello cancelled all trains on that route. Rail Europe’s website stated that refund requests should be made direct to the train companies, so I sent my claim to thello in May 2020, in line with the requirements on its website. Thello has emailed me a number of times – the last time on 30 December – to say that it was dealing with queries as quickly as it could. It is now 14 months since the journey did not take place. Thello is, apparently, no longer running any trains. Rail Europe accepts no liability for the money which I paid to them for my tickets.

I would be really grateful for your advice, please.
CW, by email

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My first piece of advice to readers would be to avoid using Rail Europe. As far I can see, the company’s customer service appears to be poor to non-existent when refunds are due following a cancelled service. This is not the first complaint we have had about this site, which is part-owned by SNCF, the French train operator.

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Mark Smith, who runs the excellent train and ticket advice website The Man in Seat 61, says it is up to the ticket vendor (Rail Europe) to obtain your refund from the operator and pass it on – although in this case the company has shown no inclination to help you. I contacted Rail Europe myself – both here and in France – and have been ignored, too.

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This case is complicated by the fact that thello has ceased trading and is not answering the phone. Rail Gazette has reported the service was officially wound up on 1 July. What we don’t know is whether Rail Europe received your refund and has failed to pass it on, or whether the company ceased trading before your refund was independently processed.

In the face of Rail Europe’s silence on the matter – there is no phone number to call – your options are not great, but it is worth contacting your bank and asking it to process a chargeback. You should explain that the firm ceased trading on 1 July. It’s a long shot. A section 75 claim to your credit card firm is unlikely to succeed because you paid an agency for the tickets.

Meanwhile, others thinking of using Rail Europe to buy train tickets in the future might want to consider an alternative. Trainline offers European train tickets. What has been the experience of other readers when trying to get a refund from Rail Europe? Email the usual address.

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