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How to travel smarter during a Rail Strike

A rail strike doesn't have to mean that your trip grinds to a halt.

When there’s a rail strike, the message from train companies is pretty much the same across the board. We’re all told that we shouldn’t travel and to find alternatives. But coach travel can become expensive on strike days and it’s slow. Plus, not everyone can just jump in the car instead. On some routes, trains will still be running and there’s no reason not to catch them.

So how can you travel smarter during rail strikes? Here are our top tips:

Know who’s involved in a rail strike

Most strikes affecting the railway involve the RMT union or ASLEF. So what’s the difference and how does it affect which trains can run?

RMT strikes are now only affecting rail company staff. On an RMT strike day, most companies will usually run a limited service between around 7:30am and 6pm, with some finishing a little earlier. This action previously affected Network Rail staff, but this dispute is now resolved.

As a general rule, ‘major’ routes will still run. So, if you’re going from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, York, Leeds, Preston, Manchester, Liverpool or Birmingham to London, you can expect a reasonably regular service of at least one train every two hours.

ASLEF strikes affect train drivers and are more ‘major’ as some companies will not run any trains at all, including most major long-distance ones. However, not every operator is in dispute with this union, so some companies will run a largely normal timetable.

Check what’s running

You should always check before you travel with our dedicated strike page. We’ll tell you where to find the right information about your journey. You can also visit the National Rail website.

As we mentioned above, an RMT rail strike usually means a limited network of trains running during limited hours, while an ASLEF strike means a normal service on some routes with no trains at all on others.

If you want to still travel, don’t refund your ticket

Advance train tickets are likely to be very limited or non-existent on a rail strike day. If you want to travel and know that you still can, don’t get a refund. You’ll either be able to amend your ticket to a service that is running, or Advance ticket restrictions will be lifted.

You should know that if your ticket is only valid with a particular company, you’ll still need to stick to them where possible.

Leave as much time as possible during a rail strike

As on any other day, other disruptions can still happen. Don’t rely on the last train if you can, as there may be fewer staff around to help if something goes wrong.

Despite what some operators claim, strike days usually aren’t extremely busy (unless there are lots of strike days in a row), so you won’t find yourself struggling to board every single train.

However, it’s a good idea to check where your train starts from. If you’re boarding at the starting station, you should get there earlier in case it’s busy. Even better, make sure you have a seat reserved.

Most importantly, know that it is possible to travel on strike days. Trains run on some routes, and your rights to compensation and help in the event of disruption aren’t any different. If there’s a train scheduled to run, go ahead and catch it!

Book smarter

No matter what happens, you’re covered when you book with Railsmartr. We’ll let you know if your train will be cancelled by any upcoming strike action.

If it’s cancelled, you’re able to get a fee-free refund or amendment, no matter what kind of ticket it is. If your train is running but you still don’t want to travel, that’s no problem either.

Author Richard

Hi, I'm Richard and I've been working for Railsmartr since 2022. I make sure that everything we communicate with customers is top-notch and write exciting and informative content for the website. When I'm not at work, you'll still find me on the rails - though often in the far corners of Europe!