AN exasperated commuter, who threatened to take South West Trains to court, is celebrating after they agreed to part-refund his season ticket.

Nick Sutcliffe, an Ash Parish councillor, contacted the News to tell of his six-month battle with SWT to get a 5% refund on his 2000/01 season ticket.

Describing the experience as "banging your head against a brick wall", he explained how he realised he had overlooked the refund, but gave SWT a photocopy of his old ticket to claim the £133 he was entitled to.

However, the train company refused to accept this and asked Mr Sutcliffe to produce a copy of the ticket or obtain a record of purchase from Farnham station where he had bought it.

"Although it's generally a good station and usually manned," Mr Sutcliffe said, "they said there was no trace of the ticket anywhere."

So he contacted SWT's customer services department.

"I asked them how I could prove that I bought the ticket because I did not have the things they were asking for," he explained.

Acting on his own initiative Mr Sutcliffe contacted his bank to see if they could provide some proof that would satisfy the train company.

"Barclays found a fax copy of the cheque in their archive which showed the ticket number and the date of purchase.

"I e-mailed SWT to ask whether that was good enough.

"I never heard anything back and that was when I decided to go to the county court," he said.

It appears that the threat of legal action moved South West Trains to action after months of ignored correspondence and standard replies, which got neither side any further forward.

But the legal threat prompted SWT to refund 5% of his £2,660 season ticket, although they were still not prepared to compensate him for the £40 in lost interest.

However, they finally backed down when Mr Sutcliffe made it clear to them that he was going to fight for everything he was owed.

"So, I'm very pleased, but its ridiculous that I have to take the train company to court for something that I'm entitled to.

"I think it's important that all South West Trains customers who have season tickets, and who get refunds, get all the money back they're entitled to."

Reflecting on the whole experience Mr Sutcliffe said: "You get 5% back because the service is so poor, and then they don't even give you the money you're entitled to because the refund service is also rubbish."

A spokeswoman for South West Trains said the delay in dealing with Mr Sutcliffe's refund was due to administration at Farnham ticket office.

However, she pointed out that he would have got his money in the end.

"It was our mistake. We apologise to Mr Sutcliffe for it taking longer than it should have."