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What does ‘no specific seat reserved’ mean on my ticket?

So, you’ve booked your journey, but your seat reservation says ‘no specific seat reserved’ or it tells you that you’re in ‘Coach *** Seat ***’. What does this mean?

Put simply, not all rail operators offer seat reservations. Their carriages don’t have specific letters and you won’t find any seat numbers, either. If there’s no specific seat reserved on your ticket, then you can sit in any seat in the class of accommodation that your ticket is for. 

Why does my ticket have no specific seat reserved?

When you purchase an Advance ticket, you need to catch that specific train. However, rail operators can’t sell an endless number of Advance tickets, as they’d end up becoming too full! By issuing you a reservation with no specific seat reserved, they’re giving you what’s known as a counted place. This allows them to monitor how many tickets have been sold for the train. Once they’ve sold a certain number, these counted place reservations will run out and they’ll stop selling Advance tickets for that train.

If you’ve booked an Advance ticket very close to your departure time, you may also find that there is no specific seat reserved for you.

How do I know if my ticket has no specific seat reserved?

When you purchase a ticket and it has no specific seat reserved, it will be marked. Here’s an example of an eTicket that has a counted place reservation: 

Image showing a rail ticket with no specific seat reserved

As you can see, there’s no coach or seat number, and it says ‘No Specific Seat’ next to the scheduled train times. 

Which rail operators offer tickets with no specific seat reserved?

If you purchase an Advance ticket from one of the following operators, you won’t have a specific seat reserved. Simply sit anywhere in the class that your ticket is for:

  • Northern
  • Southeastern
  • Southern Railway
  • South Western Railway
  • London North Western Railway/West Midlands Trains
  • Chiltern Railways
  • Transport for Wales
  • Greater Anglia
  • Great Northern
  • Thameslink
  • Gatwick Express
  • Heathrow Express.

I used to get a reserved seat on my train, and now I don’t. Why is that?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some operators made the decision to remove all specific seat reservations from their trains. While seat reservations have returned on the majority of trains that previously had them, they’ve not yet returned on Greater Anglia, Transport for Wales and on some long-distance East Midlands Railway and Great Western Railway services that do not serve London. 

Which operators offer both counted place and specific seat reservations?

Some rail operators run a mix of service types, such as local and express trains. This means that some of their trains on the same route might not offer specific seats while others do.

Here’s a guide to which services offer specific seat reservations: 

Operator Reservable services Services without specific seat reservations
East Midlands Railway
  • Sheffield to London St Pancras
  • Nottingham to London St Pancras.
All other services, including those between Liverpool and Norwich, as well as EMR ‘Connect’ services between Corby and London St Pancras.
  • Glasgow Queen Street to Aberdeen & Inverness
  • Edinburgh to Aberdeen & Inverness
  • Aberdeen to Inverness
  • Glasgow Queen Street to Fort William, Oban & Mallaig
  • Glasgow Central to Stranraer
  • Inverness to Wick & Thurso.

All other services, including all ScotRail trains operating between Edinburgh and Glasgow Central or Glasgow Queen Street.

Great Western Railway
  • London Paddington to Oxford, Worcester & Hereford
  • London Paddington to Cardiff Central & Swansea
  • London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads & Weston-super-Mare
  • London Paddington to Exeter St Davids, Plymouth & Penzance
  • London Paddington to Cheltenham Spa.
All other services, including those between Cardiff Central and Portsmouth, and Cardiff Central and Penzance. 

My ticket says ‘no specific seat reserved’ but I need a seat. What can I do?

We would recommend taking a look at our page on receiving assistance on the train. While operators cannot issue seat reservations for trains that don’t normally offer them, they can provide assistance in locating a suitable seat for you. 

You can book assistance with the rail operator you’re travelling with, or you can fill in the form on the Passenger Assistance website.