Train passengers face disruption while travelling over Christmas with more than 250 sets of engineering works planned, plus industrial action on a number of routes.
Network Rail, which manages the rail network across Great Britain, says 260 projects will take place between Saturday 23 December and Monday 1 January.
Adding to the upheaval is the announcement of various strikes on a number of different routes, including Virgin West Coast and CrossCountry.
How do I check if my journey is affected?
If you've already bought a ticket, or are planning to travel over the festive period, here's what to check before you travel:
- Check for engineering works – Put the date of travel and train company you're travelling with into National Rail's future work checker to see if there are engineering works on your route. If there are use the National Rail journey planner to check specific train times.
- Check for industrial action – A number of strikes have been called so check the website of the train company you will be travelling with to see if there are any expected delays or cancellations. You will usually be offered an alternative train.
Here's a few examples of the engineering work and industrial action planned for major routes:
|Train firm||Dates||More info|
|CrossCountry||23, 24, 27 & 31 Dec||Strike action planned - if it goes ahead there'll be a reduced service, and some replacement bus travel. More info|
|Arriva Trains Wales, CrossCountry, London Northwestern Railway (formerly London Midland), Virgin Trains & West Midlands Railway||24 Dec to 2 Jan||Engineering work between Birmingham New Street and Wolverhampton. More info|
|Arriva Trains Wales, East Midlands Trains, Northern & TransPennine Express||24 Dec, and 30 Dec to 1 Jan||Engineering work between Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Oxford Road 24 December, and further upheaval between 30 Dec and 1 Jan|
|Caledonian Sleeper, Northern, TransPennine Express & Virgin Trains West Coast||24 to 27 Dec||Engineering work between Preston and Lancaster. More info|
|Greater Anglia and TfL||23 Dec to 1 Jan||Engineering work for Crossrail affecting lines from London to Southend, Southminster, Braintree, Colchester, Clacton, Walton-on-the-Naze, Ipswich & Norwich. More info|
|Great Western Railway, Heathrow Connect & Heathrow Express||23 Dec to 2 Jan||Engineering work between London Paddington and Slough/Heathrow Airport. More info|
|Southeastern||23 Dec to 1 Jan||Engineering work between London Charing Cross / London Cannon Street and London Bridge, closing all lines. More info|
|Virgin Trains West Coast||22 Dec||Strike action on routes from London to Chester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester, North Wales & West Midlands. More info|
Can I get my money back if I decide not to travel due to delays/cancellations?
In a nutshell, yes (unless you've got a season ticket). If the train you intended to catch is cancelled or delayed you can decide not to travel and ask for a refund from the original retailer or train company it was brought from, and you won't be charged an administration fee.
If you have a season ticket you've fewer rights if your train's cancelled. You won't be able to get a refund because your ticket isn't for a specific time; it's assumed you'd be able to get on the next available train. If you do that and end up being significantly delayed you can, however, still claim compensation in many cases. See below for how to claim (or check our Train Delays guide).
Can I get compensation if I'm delayed?
Annoyingly, the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train firms, says you can't claim delay compensation simply because your journey takes longer due to planned engineering work or a strike. It says you can only claim compensation against the amended timetable eg, a different train or replacement bus (however, there is a chance you could try and use the Consumer Rights Act, see below).
If you decide to go ahead and travel on the amended service, but are delayed once onboard you may be able to claim compensation.
Whether on a normal or amended service in most cases you should be able to claim if your journey is unexpectedly delayed by more than 30 minutes, regardless of what caused the delay - one train firm even pays you for delays of more than two minutes, and others will pay out after 15 minutes.
There are, however, a few train companies which still use the old style compensation system, and won't pay compensation unless it is more than a hour's delay and they deem it to be within their control.
Steps to claim compensation if you're delayed
- Keep hold of your tickets – it's much easier to claim if you have the original.
- Check what the train company will offer. (See individual firms' policies.)
- Make a note of the delay and the reason for it. Request a claim form from the station, your train company's website or by phone.
- Apply within the time limit, typically 28 days.
- If you're rejected for compensation or a refund but still think you have a case, complain. If necessary, take your complaint to Transport Focus.
What if I wasn't told about works or strikes in advance, or it changed after I booked?
If you knew about planned engineering work or an amended strike timetable before you travelled, as above you won't be able to claim if your journey takes longer because of it.
If, however, you booked a train but you were not told it would take longer before you booked, or your journey has been amended after you booked, you could ask for some compensation for the inconvenience.
Contact your train company and explain what you're asking for (eg compensation or a new ticket) quoting the Consumer Rights Act, which says your train company must provide its service with reasonable care and skill. There's no guarantees this will work, but it could be worth a try if you're unhappy with your journey.
If you're rejected for compensation or a refund but still think you have a case, you can escalate your complaint to Transport Focus.
Can I claim compensation for shoddy service?
Since October 2016, passengers have been able to use the Consumer Rights Act if their journey falls below par, so this could include broken toilets, lack of seating or no Wi-Fi.
There's no guarantees this will work, but you might want to consider trying it for cases such as your seat reservation not being honoured due to crowded trains during the disruption.
See our Train Delays guide for more information.