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What happens if I need to catch a Rail Replacement bus?

For many rail users, it’s their worst nightmare. You book a rail ticket, and you end up on a Rail Replacement bus. Sometimes, it’s necessary to catch a Rail Replacement bus when there are planned engineering works or in cases of disruption.

What is a Rail Replacement bus?

A Rail Replacement bus is provided when the railway is unable to run a train service. It could be planned (such as in engineering works) or last-minute (if there’s disruption). Buses will usually stop only at the railway stations on the route, but they might stop somewhere else if road access is difficult. Companies will often run a stopping bus to serve all stations on the route, as well as an express one that serves the most important destinations.

How do I know if part of my journey involves a Rail Replacement bus?

If a replacement bus service has been planned, then it’ll be added to the timetable. This means that Railsmartr will be able to tell you when you’re booking your ticket. Here’s what to look for:

Railsmartr website showing a rail replacement bus service

When you search for a journey, just click on the arrow next to the journey time. This will tell you whether your service is a train or a bus (or something else!) and who it’s operated by. Rail Replacement buses are usually operated by third-party companies on behalf of a rail operator.

Am I entitled to compensation if I need to use a replacement bus service?

If you’ve bought a ticket and planned engineering works or other anticipated disruptions mean that you need to catch a Rail Replacement bus, then unfortunately you aren’t. While this may be frustrating, compensation is calculated against the advertised timetable. You can find more information on what counts as the ‘planned timetable’ in the National Rail Conditions of Travel.

The exception to this is if your Rail Replacement bus becomes delayed, too.

For example, if it becomes stuck in traffic and you miss your connecting train, then you can still claim compensation. You’ll need to claim compensation from the rail operator that the bus service was operated on behalf of.

If unplanned disruption means that you had to catch a Rail Replacement bus, then you’re also entitled to compensation. You’ll need to claim from the rail operator that first caused the delay on your journey.

Where do I catch a Rail Replacement bus from?

Good question, as it certainly won’t be waiting for you on the platform! Generally, a replacement bus service will leave from the front of the station, the nearest main road or from a bus station if it’s close to the railway station. To find out where your bus leaves from, click here. Just type in the name of your station and scroll down to ‘Staffing and general services‘.

What if I’m unable to use a Rail Replacement bus?

While replacement bus services should be accessible to all passengers, sometimes this isn’t always possible. In these cases, the rail operator will be able to book accessible replacement transport for you or arrange for you to travel on a different route.

Click here to find out more about how you can book assistance for your journey. If you have any questions about your journey, you can also contact us.