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London to Canterbury, plan for possible rail strikes

Hi folks, looking for guidance on transportation from London to Canterbury. Rick's guidebook notes the options, so I had planned to go from London to Canterbury by train (from St Pancras or Victoria station). A few months ago I naively thought this would be straightforward. Now I realize that all sorts of horrors in the form of strikes and delays may await when I arrive early Sept.

I would appreciate input on the following questions (and anything else I need to consider).

---St Pancras vs Victoria, to Canterbuy, take the shortest option or are there other factors to consider? What happens if I buy the ticket in advance and then a strike is called, do I get a refund? How much advance notice would I have?
---And the back up plan would be bus from Victoria Coach station? Would all bus options be sold out in the event of a rail strike?

---Once I settle on that plan, I need to sort out how to get from Heathrow to St Pancras or Victoria. Take the Tube? In the event of a strike, would a bus be available?

It's a bit daunting. Thank you for intel!


Posted by
6027 posts

Hi, Suzanne.
Rail Strikes happen with a certain amount of notice required , so you should not arrive in the UK to a “surprise strike.” Nigel, one of our forum members, does an amazing and generous job of keeping this forum informed of any upcoming strikes and related information.

You can use the tube in from Heathrow. Buses are also available.

Posted by
1996 posts

I suggest you go on and put in for your journey for Heathrow (if that is your starting point) to Canterbury. Now you can click on journey details to see where you change trains as well as if split tickets work out cheaper than a through ticket. You might want to put in for one way but if going to return - check out those prices as well. Note that ‘Advance’ tickets are for specific trains but Anytime tickets give you flexibility. Note that Canterbury East is served by high speed services from London St.Pancras whilst Canterbury West is served by slower services from London Victoria.

Here is a video of the London (St. Pancras) to Canterbury high speed service.

Note that in the event of a strike, you will be able to get your money back. By law, 2 weeks notice is required of any strike so if you don’t need to go on a particular day, you can go the day before or after. (So far, the strikes have been 1 day at a time. Today is a strike day with only about 20% of services running - mainly on the main lines).

Posted by
5981 posts

Are you heading to Canterbury straight from Heathrow?

If you are staying near St Pancras, then take the faster more expensive train from there. If you are staying near Victoria, then it maybe quicker door to door to take the slower cheaper train from Victoria. You can also go from Charing Cross, Waterloo East or London Bridge with a change at Ashford.

Plenty of notice is given for rail strike days. London Underground will be operating on rail strike days, so you would be able to get into central London from Heathrow. The advice is don’t travel by train on a strike day. Alternative options to the train will be busy. Buses will be running.

A private transfer from somebody such as Blackberry Cars is an option.

Posted by
11998 posts

By law, the public must be given two weeks notice of an upcoming strike. It won't just be a surprise.

If the day you want to travel by train is a strike day, then as soon as you know buy a bus ticket to Canterbury.

The Piccadilly line (tube) goes directly from Heathrow to Kings Cross/St. Pancras. (Kings Cross station is across the street from St. Pancras.) It's doubtful the tube AND the trains would go out on strike the same day. If they do, a prebooked private car service, like the one mentioned above, would be a good alternative.

If you choose to travel to Canterbury from Victoria Station, get the Piccadilly line to Hammeresmith, cross the platform (about 20 feet) and switch to the District Line to Victoria station. Victoria coach station is a few blocks away.

If there is a strike on your travel day, you could also take a coach from Heathrow direct to Victoria Coach Station.

National Express is the main coach company for your journeys.

If you have a train ticket and you can't travel due to a strike, you will get a refund. If you buy it online, you can probably claim the refund online.

Posted by
28842 posts

to be precise the union must give 14 days notice. That could be interpreted as slightly different from 2 weeks.

If you are intending to get all the way from home via Heathrow to Cambridge in one day I wouldn't recommend Advance tickets as they are non-refundable and you must travel on the exact train you have booked. This could be expensive and inconvenient if your flight is early or late or you have a faster or slower experience with Border Control or luggage.

For the simplicity it is probably worth paying a bit more and just getting an on the day Off-Peak Single or Anytime Single at either St Pancras International (the Javelin trains are up an escalator or lift on the right-hand side of the station most of the way along, opposite Kings Cross Station - follow signs "Southeastern") or at Victoria.

At the moment no strikes have been announced for September, but that is some time away yet.

Posted by
66 posts

I was in the same boat for my RS tour that started on June 27. I was planning to take the train, but I booked on the coach with National Express. It leaves from Victoria coach station. The coach station in Canterbury is a short walk to the Abode Hotel. The coach ride was a bit over 2 hours.

Posted by
48 posts

Thanks to all of you! The generosity and level of detail in the posts is much appreciated. I will Tube from Heathrow to St Pancras / Kings Cross and look for a hotel near there (only in London 1 night at beginning of trip), then take the fast train from St Pancras to Canterbury the next day. Fingers crossed re strikes, but it feels good to have options.

Posted by
5981 posts

If there are train strikes, then the coaches depart from Victoria, so it maybe worth considering the Victoria area and train service to maximise your options, rather than St Pancras.

Posted by
48 posts

Jennifer, that is a really good point. Thanks for the suggestion, and the positive review of the bus.