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Last updated:Today at 14:59
Train companies affected:London Overground, Southern

Seat Reservations

You’ll be sitting pretty with a seat reservation!

Some train companies offer free seat reservations on their services. This is generally for longer journeys. For more information, contact your train company.

Making a reservation

You can normally make a reservation well in advance, and often up until 2 hours before your journey. (For early morning trains, the last time to make a reservation is 16:00 the previous day.) Seats can get reserved quickly for busy times, such as weekends and holidays, so try to book ahead if you can.

Seat reservations can be made online, at stations, over the phone, or at Rail Appointed Travel Agents. They are normally free of charge if made at the same time you buy your ticket.

Compulsory reservations

You must have a seat reservation:

  • when travelling with an Advance ticket (see below)

  • when travelling on overnight sleeper services

  • on some routes on bank holidays. Sometimes you can only get on the train if you have a reservation or boarding pass. Check with your train company and reserve your seat as early as possible

Advance tickets

Advance tickets are issued with reservation tickets and you must bring them with you when travelling. If the train company does not offer seat reservations on the train you are travelling on, the reservation ticket will specify the date and time of travel. In this case, you may sit in any available seat on the specified train, appropriate to the class of your ticket. See our Advance ticket page for more information.

Choosing a seat

There are different seating options for you to choose from, depending on the train you are travelling on.

Seat position: choose a seat by the window, aisle or, in First Class, an individual seat.

Direction of travel: A choice of a forward, backward or airline style seat. On some routes trains reverse direction several times, and to avoid confusion, all seats are shown as airline whether they are arranged around a table or in airline style.

Quiet Coach: If you choose a seat in this coach you are asked to not use your mobile phone, to keep electrical equipment in silent mode, to ensure music cannot be heard by other people, and to keep noise levels to a minimum.

Once you have made your choice, your ticket will then show the coach letter and seat number that you have reserved.

Finding your seat

Look for the coach letter on the outside of the train. This will save you from having to walk the length of the train when on board.

Look for your seat number. Seat numbering starts from one end of the coach and finishes at the other.

The seat reservation will either be placed in the reservation slot at the top of your seat or on an overhead electronic display.  

If you require assistance, station and onboard staff will be available to help you.

Reservations for children

You can reserve seats for children, but if they are under 5 you can only make a reservation if they have a child ticket. Please see our Train Travel with Children page.

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Travel Tips


  • Check if a reservation is required for your journey

  • Book a seat as far in advance as you can

  • Make yourself comfortable!


  • Forget to bring your reservation tickets with you

  • Sit in a seat that’s reserved for someone else

  • Book the Quiet Coach if you’re going to be nattering with your mates!


No, seat reservations are available at no cost.

You do not have to have a reservation for most services and ticket types. However, if you want to guarantee a seat on your train, they are advised, especially for longer journeys and for people with mobility issues. You will always need a reservation on a sleeper train and with any Advance tickets. Some train companies make reservations compulsory on certain dates – check before you travel.

For any queries or issues regarding a seat reservation, you should find the onboard train manager and they will be able to help you.