How to get a refund on strike-hit trains

Guards from a number of train-operating companies will be going on strike again next Thursday, 17 April. In the dispute over guards' duties, hundreds of trains are likely to be cancelled by Arriva Trains Merseyside, Central Trains, Connex, ScotRail, Silverlink, SouthCentral, Thames and Virgin. Yet if you have booked in advance and paid for a seat on a train that is subsequently cancelled, you may not be able to reclaim your cash.

Guards from a number of train-operating companies will be going on strike again next Thursday, 17 April. In the dispute over guards' duties, hundreds of trains are likely to be cancelled by Arriva Trains Merseyside, Central Trains, Connex, ScotRail, Silverlink, SouthCentral, Thames and Virgin. Yet if you have booked in advance and paid for a seat on a train that is subsequently cancelled, you may not be able to reclaim your cash.

An Independent reader, Mark Kermode from Liverpool, bought a standard open ticket to Birmingham from the internet website www.thetrainline.com – the largest of the online booking agencies, owned by Stagecoach and Virgin. When he heard of the impending industrial action, he checked online and found that his train had been axed.

The website allowed buyers to cancel bookings – but only for a fee of £7.50 online, or £10 by telephone. After The Independent investigated his case, the website said it would change its policy to make clear, on screen, how passengers can claim a full refund.

You are entitled to get your money back in full "if a train is cancelled through strike action or unforeseen circumstances, i.e derailment when no alternative method of transport is offered within the hour." To get a refund, you must call 0870 010 1296 rather than applying online.

For people who buy their tickets from other sources, the National Rail Conditions of Carriage make it clear that you cannot expect a full refund from other sources in the event of a strike or other disruption: "If the train you intend to use is cancelled, delayed or your reservation is not honoured... unless buying direct from your local station you can expect to pay a reasonable administration fee." This is likely to be £5 or £10 – so either buy from your local station or www.thetrainline.com.

You can get details of trains that are likely to be affected by calling 08457 48 49 50 or visiting www.nationalrail.co.uk

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