Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Wednesday, 31 March 2010 15:39 UK

Train strikes: Your rights explained

RMT strike placard

The first rail strike in 16 years is scheduled for 6-9 April, the week following the Easter weekend, after leaders of the Rail Maritime and Transport union and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association called for their members to withdraw their labour.

They are protesting about cost-cutting measures that would mean 1,500 workers employed by Network Rail losing their jobs.

Both sides appear keen to negotiate a deal and avert a strike.

TRAIN COMPANIES

The primary responsibility for compensating customers affected by any industrial action lies with the train operating companies - represented by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) which is the first port of call for advice on tickets.

The association says some trains will, in fact, run and a revised timetable will be available from 1 April from each train company.

The details will be on the National Rail website.

In general, ATOC says train travellers will get a refund, or can switch to another service, if their train is cancelled or runs later than originally scheduled.

And season ticket holders can get compensation if there are no trains at all on their route.

But if you are a season ticket holder and there is still a revised service, but one which does not suit you, ATOC says only that your train operator "may consider compensation".

But what other rights do passengers affected by a strike have?

PAYING BY PLASTIC

On the face of it, the information from ATOC means would-be travellers will get their money back or an alternative ticket from their train company if RMT members do go on strike.

But what if you have some sort of problem getting your money back?

The Consumer Credit Act gives considerable protection to people who have bought a service using a credit card.

If the ticket was worth more than £100, card holders can make a claim against their credit card company.

"If you don't get it back from the train company, it is worth making a claim to the credit card company," said Jemma Smith, a spokeswoman for the UK Cards Association.

Some debit cards issued under the Visa brand also offer a similar protection known as "charge back".

This is not a legal right, says the UK Cards Association, but a way for consumers to dispute payments they have made.

And it applies regardless of the value of the items or service you have bought.

"Check your terms and conditions to see if you have this protection," said Jemma Smith.

One important factor in claiming back money on a credit card is that it depends from whom you bought the ticket.

You are not covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if you bought the ticket from a third-party provider - such as thetrainline.com - rather than the train company directly, or the main online ticket agency of ATOC members, National Rail Enquiries.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

What about travel insurance policies?

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says it is possible they may cover you for domestic journeys.

"If you took out your travel policy and booked your train before the day when the strike dates are known, then you may be covered for the price of your ticket if your train is delayed or cancelled, in accordance with the policy terms," it said.

"Some policies may pay a fixed lump sum if any delay forces you to cancel your travel plans," it added.

The ABI warns that the wording of your policy is crucial. Some may cover cancellations due to industrial action, while others may not.

The cost of your train ticket may be the least of your problems. What if a strike disrupts your wider holiday plans, so you cannot get to an airport or port?

"If you are travelling abroad, some travel policies may cover missed departure due to a failure of public transport," the ABI says.

"[But] you must leave adequate time or make alternative arrangements as your travel insurer may not pay out for missed departures due to strike action that you knew about," the ABI adds.



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SEE ALSO
Rail union workers vote to strike
11 Mar 10 |  Business

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