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Rail strikes: Your travel and refund rights

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Thousands of railway workers will strike across three days this week, grinding much of the transport system to a halt. Here are your rights when it comes to delays, cancellations and financial losses.

More than 40,000 RMT trade union member railway workers have    voted to go on strike on Tuesday 21, Thursday 23, and Saturday 25    June.

Tomorrow’s walk out will also coincide with a separate London Underground strike, plus ASLEF train driver members have voted     for industrial action on Thursday 23, Monday 27 and Tuesday 28   June, as well as Wednesday 13 and Thursday 14 July.

Around a fifth of the usual services will be running this week, with    passengers urged not to travel if it can be avoided. For those who rely on the rail network, but who will be severely impacted by the strike action, here are your travel and refund rights, by consumer champion, Helen Dewdney…

My train’s been cancelled. Can I get a full refund?

Yes. If you know your train has been cancelled (Advance, Off-peak or Anytime ticket holders) and you no longer wish to travel, contact the retailer of the ticket. This should be a full refund – you shouldn’t incur any fees.

Can I travel at a different time or day?

If you’ve bought an Advance, Off-peak or Anytime ticket and your train has been cancelled, you may be able to travel at a different time and/or a different route and possibly with a different operator.

You may also be able to use the ticket the day before the intended journey date, and according to National Rail, for this week’s strikes, you can use the ticket through to Tuesday next week (excluding season ticket holders). It’s best to contact the train company you were due to travel with to double check what your options are.

Can I get a refund on my season ticket or flexi season ticket?

For season ticket holders, the refund information is anything but consistent on the National Rail website, its customer service centre and its press office.

However, you will be given some compensation for the days you were unable to travel.

In reality, the proportional daily cost of a trip with the train company will be used. It will work out the average price of a journey, basing the figure on the length of the season ticket and 10 journeys a week, for example, and then apply the compensation percentage as per a single ticket.

It’s best to contact your train provider for details.

My train was delayed. Can I get compensation?

Around 80% of the usual train journeys won’t run this week which means there could be big delays on the remaining services which are operating.

You can get compensation for delayed trains. Usually, you will be entitled to this if a train arrives more than 30 minutes late or on some providers it is 15 minutes or 60 minutes.

Generally, if you are delayed between 30 and 59 minutes you will receive half the cost of the one-way journey (so, a quarter of the cost of a ticket if it was a return one). You will receive the whole cost (or half on a return ticket) for over 60 minutes and if over 120 minutes, the full costs of both legs of a return journey.

The National Rail website lists the links to each train operator’s Passenger Charter and provides the length of delay before compensation is due. However, not all of them are correct. For example, Gatwick Express is listed as needing to be 30 minutes late before compensation is due. However, click on the link and you will see it states it pays out for delays of 15 minutes or more.

As such, it’s best to check directly with the train operator.

How do I claim?

Again, there’s no one-size fits all approach here. Sometimes you may be required to fill out an online form by providing details of your ticket and uploading a photograph. Or you can send the form by freepost.

Either way, it’s really important you keep hold of your ticket as proof. Don’t let the machine at the barriers swallow up your paper ticket.

How will I receive my compensation?

You’ll usually receive a refund via the payment method you used at the time you bought your ticket. But you can also choose a cheque, refund to your nominated credit or debit card or vouchers which you can use to buy another ticket.

You may find your train operator offers a free ticket anywhere on its network which could actually be worth more than the face value of your ticket. Again, it’s worth checking with your operator to see exactly what is available.

How long will it take to get a refund?

Compensation should be paid within 14 days.

A delay caused me to miss my connection. What can I do?

Where possible, train companies will try and put on a replacement bus service or taxi. If this is not possible –  for example there were no available staff to help organise this – you should keep your costs as low as possible and try to claim from the company. Retain the proof of purchase for any services used and contact the train company. Each claim is handled on a case-by-case basis.

What about consequential losses such as event tickets or hotel costs?

National Rail says it cannot refund taxi or hotel bills.Trains are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) but strike action is often cited as being outside of the service provider’s control.

According to the Rail Ombudsman CEO and chief ombudsman, Kevin Grix, when applying the CRA to a possible service failure, it can also be helpful to ascertain what reasonable steps a consumer could have taken to reduce the impact of additional expenses, such as hotel or taxi costs.

He says: “The Rail Ombudsman looks at each case on its own merits to evaluate the impact on an individual consumer. So, if you have incurred costs associated with the train travel that can’t be recovered, you can request payment from the provider.”

If it does not give it to you, take the matter to the Rail Ombudsman which is free to do.

The Rail Ombudsman will look at the ticket-type in terms of flexibility, any amendments to the timetable and how these are specifically communicated and also any more general information, for example in the media.

Grix warns however that “in this instance the information has been widely covered in the media and so quite widespread. So, remember your own obligations to mitigate your own losses and make contingencies.”

Helen Dewdney – The Complaining Cow –  is a consumer champion and consumer rights expert who has written two best-selling books on How to Complain. YourMoney.com readers can get 15% off these publications with the discount code YMCow.

She has joined forces with YourMoney.com to provide our readers with tips, information and action points when it comes to your consumer rights. If you’ve a burning question or a problem and would like Helen’s help on a consumer issue, email us on hello@yourmoney.com where we’ll aim to right those wrongs.