The real impact of train strikes on the short-term rental market

Since June 2022, there has been a series of train strikes affecting passengers across the country. According to the Government’s report on Rail strikes: Understanding the impact on passengers, almost one in five of all respondents (19%) were unable to get to their place of work during the week of a strike. With trains out of action, it is putting extra strain on other transport modes, creating a domino effect of issues not only for the week of the strike, but also following it as a result.

At JCT600 VLS, we have seen an impact on short-term rental as a direct result of the train strikes; causing problems with vehicle availability for regular users and added stress for customers. Here, we discuss how the train strikes are having an impact on daily rental, and what customers can do to avoid disruption to their journeys.

The current situation

In February, the Aslef union announced that train drivers at five rail operators voted to continue taking strike action for more than six months in the long-running dispute over pay and conditions. The operators backing continued strike action include Chiltern, c2c, East Midlands, Northern and TransPennine.

How does it affect short-term rental?

We are in regular contact with our rental suppliers. In the run up to and during a train strike, we have seen an influx of emails from suppliers advising of high-volume requests in certain areas. Short-term rental tends to operate on a ‘one in one out’ basis, which works well for the regular day-to-day demand on the sector.

However, the train strikes have disrupted the usual flow of the market. As expected, there are more requests for vehicles, particularly in regions where the train strikes are happening, and public transport is trickier. Customers are extending how long they have a vehicle for, resulting in reservations being moved around for upcoming bookings. This can mean that the vehicle you booked is not available or the type of vehicle you can hire is different to the one you specified.

One of the biggest issues we are seeing is the time to return vehicles being affected. Many impacted train passengers have been using short-term rental for a one-way trip, and not returning the vehicle to the original branch. In normal times, there is enough fluidity in the market to move vehicles across the country from branch to branch. But this is currently not the case, and time to return is on average one week.

Is it just the train strikes having an impact?

It isn’t just the train strikes where we see this scenario happening. Flight cancellations and extreme weather conditions have also been known to have a similar ripple effect on the industry. Snow, for example, can delay vehicles being returned on the day they are meant to, which if that vehicle has been booked out will have a knock-on effect to the vehicle availability. Luckily, flights and weather disruptions tend to me more localised, and suppliers can call on neighbouring branches to help with any availability issues. The train strikes, however, have been on a more national level, and therefore having a wider impact on the industry.

What can you do?

Whilst it can be difficult to plan for unforeseen circumstances such as a flight cancellation, it is worth understanding the impact the train strikes are having on the short-term rental market and to plan ahead where possible.

If you, or one of your employees are going to be making a journey in the coming weeks or months, check if there is a train strike coming. Don’t just rely on train travel as the only form of transport, and have a back-up route planned in case of any last minute delays or issues. Depending on where you are travelling from and to, there are a number of alternative transport methods including buses, trams, city bikes, and even car sharing.

Getting a hire vehicle on the day of travel is extremely limited. So, be prepared and plan ahead.