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Frequently Asked Questions

If you're new to Railsmartr or looking for answers to your questions, this guide will help you learn more about our services and their features.

Seat reservations

You can reserve seats on almost all long-distance trains. Here's a quick guide to what you can and can't reserve:
OperatorSeat reservations?Additional Information
Avanti West CoastYes
Caledonian SleeperYesReservations are compulsory
Chiltern RailwaysNo
East Midlands RailwayYesOnly on trains between Sheffield/Nottingham and London
EurostarYesReservations are compulsory
Gatwick ExpressNo
Grand CentralYes
Great NorthernNo
Great Western RailwayYesOnly on trains to/from London. Reservations on the Night Riviera sleeper train are compulsory
Greater AngliaNo
Heathrow ExpressNo
Hull TrainsYes
London Northwestern RailwayNo
London OvergroundNo
LumoYesReservations strongly recommended
ScotRailYesLong-distance services only
South Western RailwayNo
Stansted ExpressNo
TransPennine ExpressYesExcept on local services Leeds - Huddersfield and Huddersfield - Manchester
Transport for WalesNo
West Midlands RailwayNo
Sometimes, during special events or busier periods, reservations might not be offered.

You can click here to find out more about seat reservations with our handy guide. 

Where a reservation is available, we’ll always let you reserve a seat, providing that the train is not so busy that there are no seats left.

If you cannot get a seat reservation at the time of booking, it will be for one of the following reasons:

  • The train service you are travelling on does not have reservable seats. When you book an Advance train ticket on one of these services, you ticket will say 'no specific seat reserved'
  • The timetable is not yet confirmed. If you find that Advance train tickets aren't available yet either, then this means that the operator hasn't confirmed the timetable. Engineering works might be planned, for example. We'd strongly recommend waiting and not booking any tickets in this case
  • Seats that are reservable have all been booked already. If it's very close the date of travel, you'll find that some more popular services are fully reserved
  • You're booking a train on the same day. Some operators close reservations as early as 18:00 the day before travel.

More details on seat reservations are available here.

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. 

Unfortunately, it isn't possible to reserve a seat on a rail replacement bus or coach. However, as long-distance trains are likely to be substituted by coaches, it's unlikely that standing will be allowed. 

As a result, you can expect to be able to sit down, except on the very shortest journeys. 

Yes. You can sit in a seat that is reserved, but unoccupied. If the seat is still empty a few minutes after departing the station it’s reserved from, go for it! You are allowed to sit in unoccupied reserved seats even if you don’t have any seat reservation. But make sure the seat is in the same class of accommodation for your ticket type.

More details on seat reservations are available here.
If you have an Advance ticket, you should sit in your reserved seat, especially on busier services.

If you have a flexible ticket (such as an Off-Peak or Anytime ticket), there's no obligation to sit in your reserved seat. You could even travel on a different train altogether (just be sure to check the restrictions on your ticket first). But remember – your original reservation won't be valid on a different service – so it's safest to keep to the service you booked if you want a seat!

So, you've planned your journey by train with us and have your seats reserved. But when you board, there's no seat reservation on the train for you. It could be that there's no seat reservations marked at all, or that yours just isn't marked. Either way, it can be frustrating.

What to do if there were no seat reservations on the train

In these situations, the best thing to do is to try and locate a suitable alternative seat in the same class of travel. Sometimes though, especially in cases of disruption or exceptional demand, there may be no alternative seats. 

If there were no seat reervations on the train and you had to stand, you may be entitled to compensation. You'll need to contact the rail operator directly, as Railsmartr doesn't offer compensation in these situations. 

Some operators offer a 'Seat Guarantee Scheme', such as LNER and Great Western Railway

If you've purchased a First Class ticket but were unable to sit in First Class, we've produced a guide on what to do next on this page

It’s not always possible to meet your seat reservation preferences but we try very hard to match your preferences to the seats available.

Seat reservations are subject to availability and some are more popular than others. Seats with tables are always popular, for instance, so they’re often in limited supply.

We request that seats for more than one person are grouped together. Sometimes, it might look like your seats aren’t together, even though they are! For instance, seats around a table might not have consecutive numbers.

When the train is busy, it can be tricky to group your whole party together. But you might be able to sit together in a carriage that doesn’t have seat reservations (special tip – there’s at least one carriage, or part of one, like this on longer distance trains).

Yes, most trains that have reservations usually have one coach that is part (or even fully) unreserved. You can sit in this coach if you don’t have a seat reservation. The coach used varies between train operating companies. Lumo doesn't have any dedicated unreserved seating. Additionally, a reservation is compulsory on Caledonian Sleeper and Great Western Railway's Night Riviera. We've produced a guide to unreserved coaches which has all of the latest information that we know about. Click here to find out more. 
Your seat reservation will have a letter for the coach, and a number for the seat. Something like A21. This will be on your ticket. If you have more than one reservation, because there is more than one person travelling or because you are changing trains, then all the reservations will be listed on your ticket. When you’re at the station, look for signs that show where your coach is expected to stop. These are present at all major stations. If you’re getting on where the train starts, then simply walk along the train to find the right coach. Coaches are usually in sequential order. On the train, your reserved seats will be marked electronically (above the seats on the side of the carriage) or with a paper coupon on the headrest of the seat.
Where the train is reservable, and you are buying your tickets far enough ahead, we should be able to make a seat reservation for you. This is regardless of your ticket type - Advance, Off-Peak (or Super Off-Peak), or Anytime. Advance tickets will always come with a seat reservation where available. Please see What does *** *** mean on my seat reservation”. Instead, for Anytime and Off-Peak tickets, seat reservation is optional.
No, there is no charge for seat reservations on trains in Great Britain. They're always free. The only exception is if you'd like to reserve a room on a Sleeper train.
For most trains and most tickets, you will need to buy your tickets and make your reservations no later than the day before travel. Sometimes, tickets are available until 18.00 (6pm) the day before travel. In you want to reserve a seat on particularly busy trains, we recommend buying your tickets as early as possible. For example, this is the case of trains leaving London on Friday evenings, or before or after bank holidays. Some train operators allow purchase of the rather mystifyingly-named Advance Purchase on the Day . This means that you will get a reserved seat on the train, even though you bought on the day of travel.

We know it can feel a bit awkward if there’s someone already sitting in your reserved seat. There are a couple of things to bear in mind if your reserved seat is occupied. 

What should I do if my reserved seat is occupied?

First of all, you should double check that it's your seat. The carriage letters will be displayed inside the train. In most cases, they'll be on the displays at the end of the carriage: 

image showing where the carriage letter is display on an lner train

You'll also find a display outside of the train, which is usually on the door, next to the door or above the door. 

Next, make sure that it's your seat. In many cases, there'll be a display above the seat with the number on, like this one: 

image showing where to look if reserved seat is occupied

Make sure that what's on the display matches the journey that you're making. If both of these things match, and you're sure it's your seat, then you can politely ask the person to move. If they refuse, and there aren't any suitable seats available, a member of staff will be able to assist you. 

What if there aren't any reservations displayed?

If there are no reservations being displayed on the train, then the reservations no longer apply. Put simply, it is impossible to enforce reservations when you can't see which seats are reserved. You should find any suitable seat. 

My reserved seat is occupied and I can't find another 

If you can't find another seat, and you've pre-booked one, then it can be frustrating. However, many operators have a Seat Guarantee Scheme. This means that you'll be compensated if you reserved a seat, but you had to stand. 

I need a seat and can't travel without one

If you're physically unable to stand, then speak to a member of staff if you can. Alternatively, it's possible to pre-book Passenger Assist who will help you with locating a suitable seat if required. You can find more information on our dedicated page here