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Rail strikes to impact Cheltenham Festival and commuter journeys this week

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Passengers face disruption this week as rail strikes will go ahead, meaning half of usual services will run. As well as commuter journeys, it will also severely impact Cheltenham Festival racegoers.

Members of the RMT union will stage a series of walk-outs over pay and conditions, with the first taking place this Thursday 16 March.

Other days of strike action include:

  • Saturday 18 March
  • Thursday 30 March
  • Saturday 1 April.

It’s important to note that this strike action is being taken by RMT members working in 14 train operating companies. This is separate to the strike action planned – and halted after a pay deal was tabled – on Thursday 16 March by RMT Network Rail union members. This strike which has now been called off was by those who look after the tracks and signalling on the train lines.

Separately, members of the ASLEF union will also go on the picket line on Wednesday 15 March (Spring Budget day) in an ongoing row over working arrangements and pensions. This will bring chaos to London Underground passengers with Transport for London warning there will be little or no service on the tube network. However, the strike action will not impact the Overground or Queen Elizabeth line.

Meanwhile, the strikes which ARE going ahead by RMT members of these 14 train operating companies on the three dates in March and one in April, include:

  • Chiltern Railways
  • Cross Country Trains
  • Greater Anglia
  • LNER
  • East Midlands Railway
  • c2c
  • Great Western Railway
  • Northern Trains
  • South Eastern
  • South Western Railway
  • Transpennine Express
  • Avanti West Coast
  • West Midlands Trains
  • GTR (including Gatwick Express).

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said the level of disruption “will vary across the country”, so passengers are urged to check before they travel.

Timetables for both 16 and 18 March are now live on the National Rail website, and show that trains are due to start later and finish much earlier than usual.

RDG confirmed the window for travel is likely to be between 7:30am and 6:30pm, with around 40% to 50% of train services running. However, there will be “wide variations across the network”, with no services at all in some areas.

Further, evening services ahead of the strikes are also likely to be impacted, while morning services may also be disrupted as trains won’t be in their usual places. Check times and services on the National Rail Industrial Action website for the full details, or your local rail operator.

The strike action will also severely disrupt the Cheltenham Festival event which sees around 20,000 people travel through Cheltenham Spa station each race day. “Due to this damaging strike action, racegoers will have to seek alternative ways to get to the racecourse,” RDG warned.

Travel and ticket information

RDG confirmed that tickets for 16 and 18 March can be used the day before the ticket date, or up to and including Tuesday 21 March. Tickets for 30 March and 1 April can be used the day before, or up to and including Tuesday 4 April.

Passengers with Advance, Anytime or Off-Peak tickets for travel on strike days can also have their ticket refunded with no fee if the train that the ticket is booked for is cancelled, delayed or rescheduled.

Meanwhile, if an Advance ticket is for a train that is scheduled for a strike day, but is not cancelled, delayed or rescheduled, but you prefer not to travel, you should contact your ticket retailer.

Customers with two Advance tickets (an outbound and a return), to be used as a return journey, may be able to get a fee-free refund or change of journey for any unused legs/tickets, if either of the legs is scheduled for a strike day.

For those with a season ticket (flexi, monthly or longer) who don’t wish to travel, they can claim 100% compensation for the strike dates through Delay Repay.

‘We’ll pull out all the stops’

Steve Montgomery, chair of the RDG, said: “This latest round of strikes will be a further inconvenience to our customers, who have already experienced months of disruption, and cost our people even more money at a time they can least afford it. They will also be asking why the RMT leadership blocked the chance to resolve this dispute by refusing to give their members – many of whom would have benefited from a 13% increase – a say on their own deal.

“Unfortunately, while we will pull out all the stops to keep as many trains running as possible, there will be reduced services across many parts of the rail network on all four strike days, so our advice is to check before you travel.”

Related: Your right to a refund if travel is affected by train strikes