It looks like we might be facing a summer of discontent with strike action likely to affect people across the land. RMT members will strike at most train companies and Network Rail.
The union states that up to 50,000 members will be striking, including people vital to the running of the lines, like signal operators. Anyone visiting London may also find that large chunks of the tube network are affected by strike action too.
Not only that, there’s the thorny issue of what to do if you can’t attend an event, gig or festival – and there are lots going on as well over the strike days.
Here’s my guide to what’s likely to happen and what your consumer rights are if you can’t travel or attend an event.
Will I be able to catch a train?
Whenever there’s a nationwide strike, it’s easy to assume that everything will grind to a halt. However, not every train operator or service will be affected – and the rail companies and Network Rail are working on a contingency plan to keep some parts of the rail network working. Most guestimates suggest that around a fifth of the rail network could be operating. The official advice is not to travel by train unless absolutely necessary.
However, bear in mind that timetables will go out of the window in all likelihood – and whatever services are operating are likely to make limited stops and will be packed. Because of the cost-of-living crisis, it’s been announced that priorities will go to freight services too.
Bear in mind that on non strike days in between the official ones, the service will take a long time to grind back in to action so expect disruption over the whole period.
What if I miss a gig, festival, or sports event?
There’s a huge number of events going on over strike days, including Glastonbury, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, the England / New Zealand test match and the British Athletics Championships. Even if you have alternative transport like a car, you may find considerable congestion and a lack of parking at your destination. Plus the price of petrol is pretty shocking.
If you can’t attend a rescheduled event, then you usually have the right to get a refund if you can’t attend. If you bought direct then most ticket sites have resale options so you can dodge the touts. But there isn’t a strike action compensation clause in most T&Cs – so negotiate.
Also, if you are jumping in to the car, bear in mind the chaos seen at recent Liam Gallagher and Ed Sheeran gigs, where massive travel tailbacks and a lack of parking spaces led to problems getting to the gig.
What happens if you can’t travel due to a train strike.
For passengers, the best advice is ‘work from home and avoid travel if you can’. Of course, that’s not always practical, so keep in touch with your employers if you are struggling to get in to work.
If you’ve paid for advance tickets or passes, then you should be able to get a refund, but how that process works depends on the individual rail companies, who have all the details on their websites.
According to Network Rail:
If your service has been cancelled, delayed or rescheduled, you may be entitled to a fee-free change or refund from the original retailer of your ticket.
So in theory, if you have these tickets and can’t – or chose not to – travel because of the industrial action you should be able to get your money back. But train operators have a few caveats to this, which is why the National Rail statement features the dreaded word ‘may’ when mentioning refunds.
When strikes happen, some train operators may allow you to use your ticket on their services instead. Or there may be rail replacement or emergency services available. Looking at the T&Cs on some train websites, they say they will only pay out if you can’t travel or are delayed when taking these alternative services. I don’t think that’s particularly fair – so get in touch with the train operator before you chose not to travel to find out your refund rights.
Again, in theory, you can claim a refund for season or flexi-season tickets where you can’t travel too. The way this is calculated is pro-rata and is rather complex, but again, you can start the process through the train operator website. They can charge an admin fee of up to £10 though.
Featured in Mirror – Martyn James