Rail Strikes! Cost Cutting commuter shares tips to navigate the chaos.


The UK rail strikes have been ongoing since June 2022, with further action expected in the coming months. In May 2024, train drivers across 16 different operators staged a walk-out over a three-day period. Several unions – including the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Fireman (ASLEF) and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) - are campaigning for better pay and improved working conditions.

Data revealed that 70% of rail users who had planned to commute by train reported an impact on their working life during a strike week. 32% of commuters were left unable to get to their place of work, while 12% were forced to change their working hours.

Vivamoney.co.uk has partnered with cost-cutting commuter Cara Bradley to share five ways commuters can navigate the ongoing disruption of rail strikes.

Cara Bradley is a regular train user from the Northwest who relies on public transport to commute to and from her place of work. Her five pointers on the rail strikes share ways fellow passengers can navigate the chaos, while ensuring they know how to claim any money that might be owed to them.

1. Plan ahead

‘Unions are required to provide at least two weeks’ notice when proposing strike action. Full details of upcoming strikes can usually be found on the websites of affected operators, as well as through various news outlets,’ Cara says. ‘I use this handy page on the Trainline website to keep up to date with the latest information.
Travel on the day before and after the strike may also be interrupted, with services finishing earlier than usual, so remember to factor this in when planning your journey.

‘Sometimes, different train companies strike on alternate days, while others don’t participate at all. It’s worth bearing in mind that operating services are likely to be very busy during strike days.’

2. Flexible working options

‘If your job allows you the flexibility to work from home, you may be able to avoid the impact of the strikes altogether. Are you a hybrid worker? If so, is there a possibility that you could swap your delegated days in the office to bypass the disruption? If working from home isn’t something your employer usually permits, it might be worth having a conversation with them to explain the situation; they may be willing to make temporary adjustments. The rail strikes have been well-documented on the news for the past couple of years, so your employer is likely to be aware of them and the impact they could cause you.’

3. Know your refund rights

‘If you purchased an advanced ticket prior to the strikes being announced and your journey has been affected, you can apply for a refund. You will need to apply for your refund via the operator or agent you booked your tickets with – each should have a designated “delay repay” page on their website. Those with either monthly or annual season tickets can claim 100% compensation for journeys affected by strike action. This can be claimed through the original retailer.

Cara adds, ‘Depending on the operator, it might also be possible for you to use your ticket for travel on the days either side of the strikes, although services might be limited, or very busy. In addition to this, some operators may allow you to transfer your ticket to another date of travel, although doing so may come with an administration fee.

‘You can find further information about refunds, alternative travel options, and any associated restrictions here.

4. A ‘fare’ alternative

‘The majority of operators do not put on rail replacement buses to transport passengers during the strikes, although it’s a good idea to check your local service for further information as and when details of new strikes emerge.

‘Public buses should be running as normal and many companies in the UK are taking part in the £2 single fare cap scheme, which is scheduled to run until December 31, 2024.’

5. Trial a new way to travel

‘The average commuter spends an eyewatering £3,454 a year on work-related train fares. In comparison, the annual cost of maintaining a bike is just £396. If it’s something you’ve always wanted to try, and the distance is manageable, why not treat the strikes as the perfect excuse to finally give biking a go? Who knows, you might find that you prefer it!

Cara says, ‘During the early days of the train strikes over the course of summer 2022, I chose to walk just under 10 kilometres to work, rather than waiting on irregular busses or paying for a taxi. I really enjoying the opportunity to get some steps in and clear my mind before the working day started, and found that my morning stroll had a positive effect on my productivity, too.’

Dan Whittaker, a personal finance expert at Viva Money, concludes, ‘The rail strikes have been causing disruption to passengers for over two years now, and show no sign of being resolved. Cara has covered ways commuters can minimise the turmoil, while exploring different ways to travel, including making the most of the £2 fare cap on the busses, and even taking up cycling or jogging.’

Viva Money has shared ways commuters can navigate the disruption during the ongoing rail strikes.