Train strikes: your refund rights explained and what happens if you miss an event

Consumer rights expert Martyn James delves into everything you need to know about the train and tube strikes. This includes your refunds for train travel and what happens if you miss a performance or other event

Train strikes will hit the country from this week
Train strikes will hit the country from this week

It looks like we are in for a summer of dissatisfaction with strike action that is likely to affect people across the country.

RMT members will be on strike with the travel chaos on most rail companies and Network Rail from today.

All strike days of this week can be found here.

The union says up to 50,000 members will go on strike, including people vital to the lines’ operation such as signal operators.

Anyone visiting London may also find that large parts of the tube network are also affected by strikes.

In addition, there is the thorny question of what to do if you cannot attend an event, performance or festival – and there is also a lot going on during the strike days.

Here’s my guide to what’s likely to happen and what your consumer rights are if you’re unable to travel or attend an event.

Do you have any questions about the rail strikes? Let us know:

Will I be able to catch a train?

When a nationwide strike occurs, it’s easy to assume that everything will grind to a halt.

However, not all train operators or services have been affected – and the railway companies and Network Rail are working on a contingency plan to keep some parts of the rail network running.

Most guests suspect that around a fifth of the rail network could be in operation.

The official advice is not to travel by train unless absolutely necessary.

Keep in mind, however, that timetables will in all likelihood disappear out the window – and whatever services are operating will likely have limited stops and be full.

Because of the cost of living crisis, it has been announced that freight transport will also be a priority.

Keep in mind that on non-strike days the service takes a long time to get back up and running between official days, so expect disruptions throughout the period.

What happens if I miss a performance, festival or sporting event?

Many events take place on strike days, including Glastonbury, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, the England/New Zealand Test and the British Athletics Championships.

Even if you have alternative modes of transportation such as a car, your destination can experience significant congestion and a lack of parking. Plus the price of gas is pretty shocking.

If you are unable to attend a postponed event, you are normally entitled to a refund if you are unable to attend.

If you bought direct, most ticket sites have resale options so you can avoid the advertisers.

But most T&Cs don’t have a strike indemnity clause – so negotiate.

Also, as you hop in the car, consider the chaos seen at recent Liam Gallagher and Ed Sheeran gigs, where massive travel congestion and a lack of parking space resulted in problems getting to the gig.

What happens if I can’t travel because of a rail strike?

For passengers, the best advice is to work from home and avoid travel if you can.

Of course, this isn’t always practical, so keep in touch with your employer if you’re having trouble getting to work.

If you prepaid tickets or passes you should be able to get a refund, but how this process works depends on the individual train companies, who have all the details on their websites.

According to Network Rail:

If your service is cancelled, delayed or rescheduled, you may be entitled to a fee-free change or refund from your ticket’s original retailer.

So, in theory, if you have those tickets and are unable to travel – or have chosen not to travel – due to the industrial dispute, you should be able to get your money back.

However, rail operators have some reservations, which is why the National Rail statement includes the dreaded word “may” when it comes to refunds.

If strikes occur, some train operators may allow you to use your ticket on their services instead.

Or there are rail replacement or emergency services available.

If you look at the T&Cs on some train websites, they say they only pay out if you are unable to travel or are delayed when using these alternative services.

I don’t think that’s particularly fair – so contact the train operator before you decide not to travel to find out your refund rights.

Here, too, you can theoretically apply for a refund for season tickets or flexi season tickets that you can’t use either.

The way this is calculated is pro rata and quite complex, but again you can start the process through the train operator’s website.

However, they may charge an administration fee of up to £10.

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Fry Electronics Team

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