Trains, pains, and other strike problems – UPDATED

5 min read
September 08, 2022
Flight delays, cancelation and compensation

As if the ‘summer of discontent’ hasn’t been challenging enough, we are already well into the second month of both local and national train strikes. It’s easy to assume that only the nationwide strikes have a significant impact, but protests are also taking place on services that serve your local community, including the London Underground

Resolver was expecting complaint volumes to increase as people struggled to get refunds. However, we’ve not seen a huge leap in cases. When we look at the details of the complaints we do receive, it’s clear that many people simply don’t know they have the right to make a complaint about trains. And it’s not just about refunds. You can complain about the reduction in service, quality of the trains, overcharging, overcrowding and much more.

Here is Resolver’s guide to your rights with strikes, poor service and refunds. We’ll also look at what happens when you can’t attend an event because you cannot get there.

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 has been affected so far – and the rail companies and Network Rail are working on a contingency plan to keep some parts of the rail network working. However, as news reports of hugely overcrowded (or deserted) train station concourses attest, it’s clear that this isn’t anywhere near enough.

Bear in mind that timetables on strike days will go out of the window – 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 previously that priorities will go to freight services too.

What happens if you can’t travel due to a train strike?

For passengers, the best advice where possible is to ‘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 into 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 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. This isn’t particularly fair – so use Resolver to make a complaint 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 a 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.

What about other problems?

Of course, other problems can arise that are not directly related to strike action but can have a huge impact on commuters. Avanti West Coast recently announced that it was vastly reducing its services to the North West of the UK and Scotland. This timetable reduction has resulted in thousands of pre-booked tickets being cancelled with short notice and it’s pretty difficult to actually book a ticket at the moment.

Though people are getting refunds automatically, that doesn’t change the fact that you’re travel plans have dramatically altered. Though the train firms in this set of circumstances – or any circumstances where there is a cancellation – are not directly liable for your losses, you can make a complaint and ask for compensation. You’ll need to set out why they should pay out though so take the time to explain the impact on you.

Even when trains are running, passengers are reporting an altered service after the pandemic. Many people have complained about reduced staff levels, trains with fewer carriages that have led to overcrowding, cancelled buffet services, access for people with disabilities and other problems. You can use Resolver to make a complaint or seek help for all of these things and more. You can also use our website to let businesses know about pricing and customer service issues.

What if I miss a gig, festival, or sports event?

There are so many events going on over strike days, from stadium concerts to sports events.  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 at the moment too.

If you can’t attend an event that was rescheduled because the original was cancelled, then you usually have the right to get a refund if you can’t attend. However, this doesn’t apply to events you can’t attend due to strike action.

If you bought your tickets direct from the promotor or ticket agency then most ticket sites have resale options – introduced to thwart ticket touts.

Resolver is concerned that since the pandemic, many ticket companies have introduced extremely restrictive practices around refunds. If you can’t resell your ticket through the resale site, you’ll lose your cash. Many firms allow you to ‘gift’ the tickets to a friend, but this must be done a few days in advance of the event and the process can be fiddly and confusing. You’ll usually need to download an app to do this too.

Get help with a train, travel or refund issue for free at

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