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There are broadly three different kinds of UK train ticket available, Anytime (valid on any train), Off-Peak / Super Off-Peak (valid on trains outside of peak hours), and Advanced Purchase (valid on only a specific train).

If you're on an Anytime ticket, if your train is cancelled, you just get any other one, and possibly claim for compensation if it's long enough. For off peak ones, you take any other off peak train, or any train if they're feeling kind and waive the time restrictions.

However, Advanced Purchase tickets are valid only on the specific booked train, which is specified on the ticket, and aren't refundable or cancellable. What happens then if the train your Advanced Purchase ticket specifies you must travel on is cancelled?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Having had this problem happen to me today due to flooding, I've discovered the answer buried at the bottom of the NRE page on Advanced Purchase tickets.

If you decide that you no longer want to travel due to the disruption:

Your ticket is non-refundable. However, if the train you purchased a ticket for is cancelled or delayed and as a result you decide not to travel a refund will be offered on completely unused tickets and you will not be charged an administration fee.

If you still want to travel:

If the train you purchased a ticket for is cancelled or is delayed and you still decide to travel, special arrangements will be made to accommodate you on another train (although a seat cannot be guaranteed).

If you no longer want to travel, you just need to go to a ticket office with your ticket and seat reservation for the affected train, and ask for a refund. Depending on the station, it may or may not be easy to arrange, but it is possible. Alternately, you can send in a claim (including the ticket + reservation) as you would've done for a long delay, but this is likely to take longer and result in a refund in rail vouchers.

If you do want to travel, it's generally best to go to the customer services desk and get them to endorse your ticket to indicate the restrictions are lifted. They can also provide advice at the same time about alternate routes. If it's a major problem, you ought to be fine just hopping on another train, but for localised problems it's best to get the ticket endorsed so staff on trains + stations elsewhere know immediately what happened.

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This is a general European rule, in other words: This also applies to train specific tickets in for example France or Italy. It your train is cancelled, or you miss you train because the train you connect from is late you are entitled to travel on the next convenient train. –  Krist van Besien Jan 9 at 12:59
    
If there is a major problem, it's worth noting that the trains that are running can be very busy, as passengers from multiple services try to crowd onto a single train. Expect to be crowded and you may have to stand. If the last train of the day is cancelled, the train operator will probably hire a coach or pay for a taxi. –  Richard Gadsden Jun 16 at 13:29
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