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. 

National Rail has a useful table showing how far in advance seat reservations are currently available.

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.

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.