What next, if trains don't go?

I'm planning to go solo to Europe for two to three weeks, travelling by rail. I'm worried about the possibility of strike action. I plan to buy (non-refundable) point-to-point tickets via raileurope.com.au and to book all accommodation before leaving Australia. If there is a rail strike, will I be notified not to go to the station and will I be automatically rebooked? If I need to rebook myself, what is the best way of doing this? If I need to stay an extra night, will (decent) accommodation be found for me? Will the rail company and/or my travel insurance cover the cost of extra accommodation and/or the cancellation fees for my pre-booked accommodation?

- C. Liaw, Canberra.

A spokesperson for Rail Plus Australasia (railplus.com.au), Rail Europe's partner in this country, responds to your inquiry as follows: "Unfortunately, it is very hard to plan for rail strikes as there is usually no advance warning. In the event of a strike, the response will vary from country to country but usually some mode of alternative transport will be arranged.

"If you are not able to use the alternative transport, then you should have your ticket endorsed as 'unused' at a train station in advance of the train's scheduled departure. Upon your return to Australia, you can then apply for a refund of the train ticket cost. This request must be made through your point of sale.

"Even if you have purchased a non-refundable ticket, usually the train companies will offer some degree of refund. Compensation for all other costs (including accommodation/rebooking) will not be provided and these claims should be made through your travel insurance company."

If your travel plans are disrupted by strike action, it will be up to you to rearrange your onward bookings and, if necessary, find a place to stay. Your best line of defence is a travel insurance policy that covers any extra costs you might incur. Make sure you check the fine print.