Strike stopping your travel? How to claim a refund if your train is cancelled or delayed

Rail strikes have already been announced in the UK for this December and January next year.
Rail strikes have already been announced in the UK for this December and January next year.   -   Copyright  Alex Wong
By Rebecca Ann Hughes

Rail strikes that have caused travel chaos this year look set to continue in 2023.

Walkout dates have already been announced for this December and January next year.

Many travellers are now choosing trains over flying in an effort to reduce the impact on the environment. So what can you do if your flight-free travel plans are disrupted?

Here’s what you should know about your passenger rights during a rail strike in the UK and EU.

Where can you find information about train strikes?

If you are travelling within the UK, make sure you check the National Rail website for travel information.

You will find updates on all the different UK rail operators on this site. The site has already published warnings for strikes on 13, 14, 16 and 17 December as well as 3, 4, 6 and 7 January.

Around one in five trains are expected to run on these days and nearly all operators will be affected.

Similarly, if you are taking a train in the EU, you will need to check the website of the rail operator of the country you are in.

Rail disruptions will be published on Italy’s Trenitalia, France's SNCF and Germany's Deutsche Bahn sites, for example.

There, you will find strike schedules and updates on delays and cancellations.

You will also find information about what services are still running that day meaning you can find an earlier or later train to travel on.

Can you use the same ticket to travel on a different train?

Most rail operators in the UK will allow you to travel on your ticket on the same day, the day before or the day after strikes.

The same is true in the EU.

“If your train is cancelled, your reserved-seat ticket will likely be accepted on any similar train running that day (but you won't have a seat assignment),” says travel writer Rick Steves on his website.

Can you get a refund for a journey affected by train strikes?

In the UK, if you have booked an advance ticket on National Rail you are entitled to a refund for cancelled services.

You can also reschedule your journey with no additional fee.

“If you purchased an Advance, Off-Peak or Anytime ticket and choose not to travel at all because your service on either your outward or return journey has been cancelled, delayed or rescheduled then you will be entitled to a refund or change from the original retailer of your ticket,” the National Rail website states.

To do so, you need to contact the rail operator that sold you your ticket.

Popular online booking platform Trainline has a similar policy.

“If you’ve booked with us and your train has been cancelled or rescheduled, you will be entitled to a fee-free refund if you choose not to travel, or you can rearrange your trip without a fee,” it says on its website.

If your train is delayed but you choose to travel anyway, you may still be eligible for a partial or full refund. This usually depends on how late your train arrives at its destination.

According to EU law, rail passengers within the bloc are also entitled to compensation.

If your train is delayed by more than 60 minutes, you can choose not to travel and will receive a full refund for your ticket.

Alternatively, you can choose to travel at a later date.

For more information on compensation and how to claim, you should check the website of your rail operator.

Can you get a refund if you have a season ticket?

For season ticket holders in the UK, you can still claim compensation if you cannot travel due to strike action.

On the days there are walkouts, you can get a full refund through the “Delay Repay” scheme.

You can find more information on how to do this via the website of the rail operator that sold you your ticket.

You can also choose to have the whole season ticket refunded. You will, however, have to pay a £10 (€11.54) administration fee.

“Refunds are calculated from the date you return your season ticket and will be the difference between the price you paid and the cost of a ticket or tickets for the period for which you have used the ticket up to and including the date you request a refund,” says Network Rail.