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My understanding is that Off-Peak UK National Rail train tickets can be used on any train serving the selected route, as long as the travelling time window fits in the off-peak definition. Or Buy anytime, travel off peak, as National Rail puts it. Similarly, Anytime tickets allow passengers to travel at any time, as the name suggests.

However when I was booking my Off-Peak ticket I was asked if I wished to reserve a seat. Wouldn't that go against the whole principle of travelling any time provided you travel off-peak? In other words, does reserving a seat linked to an Off-Peak/Anytime journey force me to travel on that particular train, or am I still free to pick the one that suits me best?

Just to add some context, I'm looking to book a fairly complex train journey with 3+ connections, crossing 2 countries. I am therefore worried of delays which might cause me to miss my connecting trains. My rationale would be to buy Off-Peak tickets so that I can travel on any train, thus removing delayed connections from the equation. Upon booking I saw that both Advance as well as Off-Peak tickets can be purchased. I'm worried that reserving a seat would invalidate my right to pick any train I wish.

  • Related: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/16674/… – JoErNanO Jun 25 '15 at 17:33
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    Nope, just means that if you make the trains you planned for, you could be sure of a seat! – Gagravarr Jun 25 '15 at 17:47
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    As an aside, if your advance ticket covers the whole journey, then if delays at an earlier point cause you to miss a booked train, the ticket is valid on whatever train you can make. If you're split-ticketing however (which often saves money), then things aren't so clear. – CMaster Jun 25 '15 at 19:07
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    travel.stackexchange.com/questions/23127/… this question enlightens you on that eventuality – CMaster Jun 25 '15 at 19:20
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    @Him The OP is wondering why they'd want to reserve a seat when buying a flexible ticket. If they did, then they'd be sure of a seat in almost all cases (certain cancellations withstanding). The fact that many people end up having to stand is the reason why you might want to make a reservation! – Gagravarr Jun 25 '15 at 22:27
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The point in reserving a seat is so that you are guaranteed (ish) a seat to sit in. It's especially useful in larger groups that wish to sit together. It does not limit you to that particular train.

The National Rail Enquiries page on reservations says:

When are reservations compulsory?

  • On some routes around Bank Holidays. Sometimes you can only join a train if you hold a reservation or boarding pass. Customers are advised to reserve seats as early as possible.
  • When travelling on overnight sleeper services.
  • When travelling with an Advance ticket.

It makes no reference to reservations restricting ticket validity. None-advance tickets make no reference to any reservations on the ticket, so there would be no way for anyone to know you have a reservation if you don't show them. Especially as reservations can be made after buying and collecting the ticket, there is no way the ticket could show this.

In addition, I travel on trains several times a week. I've not used reservations (that I have made) many times, and had no issues, and anecdotally, I'd say that over half of seat reservations are not used. I've also heard it said that you can reserve seats on multiple different trains (on the same section of the journey) with the same ticket - there's no way you could be on them all.

  • Does anyone know how to have a line both quoted and bolded? Any combo I try only accepts one of the markups. – CMaster Jun 25 '15 at 18:58
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    The SE help centre has a page on editing. It says to use ***this*** or ___this___ like so. – JoErNanO Jun 25 '15 at 20:37
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    Check out my edit. I usually prefer headings to plain old emphasis when quoting FAQs or similar. – JoErNanO Jun 25 '15 at 21:23
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No the validity of the ticket is not affected and moreover you may sit where you want on the actual train

However if it is a busy train with no available seats (and this does happen off peak) you are entitled to your reserved seat, and this will be enforced by the train guard (in theory).

In practise though I usually have no wish to eject someone less able to stand than myself.

A second point is that a lot of purchasers of those tickets have no wish for flexibility anyway but inventory management has prevented them from buying cheaper inflex tickets. It would be slightly perverse if the cheapest tickets came with a guaranteed seat but the more expensive tickets might leave you stood on your feet (when they are both bought well in advance).

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    I'm going to need some reference for your claims. – JoErNanO Jun 25 '15 at 17:37
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    @JoErNanO I use the UK train network for long distance journeys a few times a month when in the UK. If you are unhappy with that the information is easily found on the national rail site under ticketing restrictions. – Calchas Jun 25 '15 at 17:40
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    That information is not easily found on the rail site, that's why I'm asking the question: does an off-peak seat reservation invalidate the whole idea behind travelling on any off-peak train serving the same route? – JoErNanO Jun 25 '15 at 17:41
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    It does not. You can throw away the seat reservation coupon if you want. – Calchas Jun 25 '15 at 17:41
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    @DumbCoder Advance tickets say that, but this happens when the seat reservation is mandatory. – Calchas Jun 25 '15 at 18:14

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