Train seat reservations in the UK

Seat reservations for UK trains can usually be booked as soon as tickets are released for sale 12 weeks (84 days) in advance. However, this isn't always the case. 

Why aren't seat reservations available?

We always try to reserve a seat free of charge. If you aren't offered one, there are several possible explanations:

The train or journey does not offer seat reservations (this is common on shorter routes and local services).
The allocation of reservable seats is fully booked.
The train operator has not made seat reservations available. This can happen when there are timetable changes or unconfirmed engineering works. If we can't get a seat reservation for your train, we will display a warning message on the Ticket Details page.

At the time of booking on the website, once you add the tickets to the basket, kindly check under "Times and seats" tab. If it states one of the below, you can refer to the description:

  • Confirmed allocated seats:

You will receive seat number, coach number and seat preference. This means that you have confirmed seats, and you will have to allocate the assigned seats itself. You will not be able to occupy any other seat in a different coach apart from the one specified.

  • Unreserved seating:

Sometimes UK tickets come on sale before seat reservations.

Fortunately, you can request seat reservations (free of charge) at the station. Just show your tickets to staff at the ticket office and ask for seats.

  • Seat reservation included:

"Seat reservation included" means the rail operator isn't selling specific seat reservations for your train. You are free to sit in any carriage in the same class of travel that you've booked. If you're struggling to find a spot, you can always ask the train manager on the day.

Can I travel without seat reservations?

Unless specified otherwise in your fare conditions, your ticket will be valid without a seat reservation. You can sit in any unreserved seat in the appropriate class of carriage that you've booked. 

Most UK train operators leave seats available for customers without reservations (there is usually at least one carriage with unreserved seating). However, if there aren't any seats available you may be required to stand for part of your journey.

Off-peak fares are valid for any off-peak train on that day. However, your seat reservation is only valid for the specific departure time shown on your booking confirmation email. If you choose to travel on a different train you will not have a seat reservation.

Can I reserve train seats after booking?

It is not possible to book seat reservations online without buying a ticket at the same time. However:

You can reserve seats from any National Rail ticket office free of charge. Simply show your tickets at the ticket office before you travel and staff will be able to issue you with reservations.

If you hold a Eurail or InterRail pass, see our article about Rail passes & seat reservations for more information.