Londoners are getting used to the strike action that regularly takes place in London. But it’s essential for the RMT (rail union) and Britain’s trade union for train drivers (Aslef) to fight for pay rises and better conditions. Although strikes are essential, they cause significant disruption across London transport, so if you plan to travel during one, you must come prepared. Here’s a step-by-step guide to navigating London transport when there’s a strike taking place.
Step 1: Find out which of your travel dates have strikes and what services are striking
Sometimes, the strikes only affect certain rail companies or tube lines, so check which services are striking and whether you will even be affected, as you might not be.
For all the information regarding upcoming tube and bus strikes, head to the TFL website, where you’ll find clear and concise information.
For rail strikes specifically, you’ll need to head to the National Rail website or individual train company sites:
It’s worth noting that although you should check the status of your transport 2-3 weeks in advance, it’s common for things to change with strikes, sometimes with strikes even being cancelled, so keep checking in the week and days leading up to your travel date.
Step 2: Work out if it will affect your plans/routes
Planning is essential, so look at your itinerary and determine which days you’ll be using transport services. We recommend working out routes between each of the things/activities you want to do, then figuring out which services you need and determining if any of those services match the services on strike.
You can check this on National Rail’s journey planner or, to work out your journey for each day, you can use Citymapper, which gives you the option to select ‘Bus Only’ routes and provides clear information about which lines to avoid in live time (look out for the exclamation mark on the tube symbols). It also provides strike-friendly routes.
If you need to get from the airport to the city or vice versa, check if your route will be affected, and if it is, plan a different one. We have a separate article all about transport options from each London airport into the city with plenty more information surrounding this.
Step 3: See if alternative transportation is possible
If you are travelling in the city on a day of strikes and your route is affected, then you should look at finding alternative transportation.
For airport transfers, your options are:
Check which train lines/tube lines are running and see if there are any alternative routes you can take. We have an article about the best ways to get from your airport to the city centre.
You can also book a coach or a bus to/from central London to your airport. National Express and Megabus are the most well-known companies that regularly run from airports; some even operate 24 hours a day and generally are not affected by strikes. We recommend booking your coach tickets in advance.
There’s also the option to pre-book a taxi, but it’s worth keeping in mind that Uber is hit-and-miss from airports on strike days, as they’re often unavailable or the wait time is super long. However, you can book a ride through our reliable taxi partner.
For getting around London, your options are:
Check which services are actually on strike and which ones are still operating. You can use the TFL Journey Planner to plan your route or use Citymapper to determine your route on the day. Certain lines might still be running, and buses generally don’t strike at the same time. But, if you’re the sort of person who hates busy crowds, then be aware that transportation tends to be much busier during strike times.
Travel by foot
You can check on Google Maps whether it’s possible to walk your route. Not only is this a healthier way to travel, but it’s also a great way to see parts of the city you might’ve otherwise bypassed.
Hop on two wheels
Check if you can cycle or scooter. Santander Bikes, Lime Bikes, Tier and Dott are the main companies that offer e-bike and e-scooter services around the city. It’s worth noting that these can be harder to find on strike days, and they’re not always available in certain areas.
Uber Boats only run to/from certain areas at 24 piers around London. You can check the timetable on the Thames Clippers website and use the Uber app to book and pay for your trip.
Pre-book a taxi
If you have plans that you can’t amend, then your best bet is to pre-book a taxi. But make sure you account for extra traffic, as the city will be busier on strike days. You could jump in an Uber (wait times can vary), or if you’re coming to/from the airport and want to be super prepared, as previously mentioned, you can secure a pre-booked ride through our reliable taxi partner.
For heading outside of London on a day trip
If you plan to head outside the city and your train is affected by the strike, you have a couple of options that don’t involve the train or tube.
Travel by coach
Head on an organised tour
Several companies offer pre-booked tours with everything organised for you, including coach transport to/from the destination. Viator and GetYourGuide have thousands of experiences on their website, providing a convenient way to explore top attractions beyond the city without the hassle of planning everything yourself, including transport.
Take a look at our article on day trips you can take from London to start planning.
If you can’t find alternative routes, then…
Step 4: Change your itinerary if you can’t change your plans
There are a few things you can do to make your trip easier.
Rebook your hotel
Check the location of your hotel. Could you rebook to a more central accommodation where the things you want to see and do are closer? We have an article about hotels to book in central London.
Shuffle the dates of your activities
You might want to consider changing the days you plan to go on tours, but please give providers enough notice so they don’t lose out and can amend their plans accordingly.
Group everything together and choose things that aren’t too far from each other to avoid travelling on transport between each place. You could stick to exploring one neighbourhood per day. We have Casual Tourist Guides for each area that are ideal for helping you plan where to go and what to do in a walkable segment of the city.
Step 4.1: Get a refund from the train company for any booked tickets
If your train service gets cancelled or delayed due to strike action, you can request a change or refund from the original ticket retailer. You won’t be charged the usual admin fee (up to £10) for the refund but you can sometimes use your ticket with another train company for an alternative route. Here’s some more information from National Rail about changing, cancelling and getting a refund for tickets.
Step 5: Keep in mind…
Nobody enjoys transport strikes, not even those on strike, but they are essential in fighting for a pay rise and better working conditions, so be patient and flexible; everybody is in the same boat, and everyone is trying to make their way to/from their destination – people might be trying to get to work so they don’t lose their jobs.
Make sure you give yourself a LOT of extra time to get anywhere, even if it seems like a short journey. Disruptions are a given, so just be prepared, even if you’re walking.
Accessible Travel on Transport Strike Days
If your trains are running normally, then assistance will be available. Also, if your route is affected by the strike and you have Passenger Assistance booked, your train operator will be in touch to discuss how you might want to change or re-arrange your journey.
Passenger Assistance is a website and app where you can request to book assistance to ensure every journey is as stress-free as possible.