Apparently it's half term this week, so the train I took into London today which is normally very full was absolutely heaving. (Why GWR decide to put a 5 coach train on for the first off-peak service of the day, rather than an 8, is a different question....). Due to quite how overcrowded it was, the train staff made an announcement after the second stop saying that the first class coach was being declassified, and standard class passengers currently standing could use it.

While that's good for most of the passengers on the train, I imagine some of the first class ticket holders might be a bit miffed, and any joining later on discovering no seats spare very miffed!

That leads me to wonder - when the first class section on a UK train is declassified by the train manager like that, are first class ticket holders entitled to any kind of compensation / partial refund? And does it depend if they now can't get a seat or not?

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    tbh why isn't there a refund when there are no seats for standard tickets either?
    – JamesRyan
    Feb 18, 2016 at 15:38
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    @JamesRyan In France and Belgium, there are 2nd class tickets with and without seat reservation. The former option is more pricy, but there's a seat number printed on your ticket, which allows you to claim your place even if you join the train midway. Feb 18, 2016 at 15:45
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    @JamesRyan In the UK at least, a standard class ticket gets you the right to travel, that's it, no right to a seat. There are some commuter services running at over twice as many people as there are seats
    – Gagravarr
    Feb 18, 2016 at 17:15
  • @Gagravarr I'm well aware of that but its not really good enough and its only the case now because historically there were mostly enough seats. Since standing and seating are a vastly different experience they should already be charged at different rates even in standard class sections of a train.
    – JamesRyan
    Feb 18, 2016 at 21:42
  • @JamesRyan There's no record of who was standing and who was sitting, so there's really no way to charge at different rates. There's also the complication of people who may have stood for only part of the journey. Jun 9, 2018 at 22:41

2 Answers 2


I agree it's very annoying, as the main reason to purchase first class is a bit of extra space and some peace and quiet.

Rule G 38 suggests you may be entitled to the fare difference between first and standard class, if one interprets "declassified" as meaning "no longer first class but just another standard class coach".


  1. Travelling in standard class accommodation with a first class ticket

    If you have a first class ticket (or the equivalent) and the first class accommodation (or the equivalent) shown in the National Rail Timetable is not available in any train you travel in, you may claim a refund of the difference in price between the first class and the standard class ticket for the relevant part of your journey.


This rule does not apply to season ticket holders.

Virgin Trains also explicitly provides this guarantee, although disingenuously they suggest it is their idea: https://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com/customer-service/seat-guarantee/

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    Anecodtaly, I've heard the condutor announce on First Transpennine services where they have allowed all travellers to access first class that first class ticket holders can apply for a refund (of the difference in price)
    – CMaster
    Feb 18, 2016 at 11:56
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    @Cmaster Yeah it sounds great, but it's a form to remember to fill out, probably the ticket barrier will swallow your ticket coupon and you will have no evidence you even took a train, you still didn't get the peaceful journey you desired ... and no doubt the difference between first and standard will be computed at the difference between a discount first and a full flexible standard ticket
    – Calchas
    Feb 18, 2016 at 12:24
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    @SteveJessop Declassifying first class (ie allowing standard-class passengers in) constitutes making it standard-class accomodation. If there are people on an STD ticket, then it's not 1ST any more. Feb 18, 2016 at 15:07
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    @Calchas The refund is for the difference between the ticket you hold and the matching STD ticket, ie Advance First to Standard Advance or First Anytime to Standard Anytime. But the rest of your complaints are entirely reasonable. Feb 18, 2016 at 15:09
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    My experience with Thameslink/Southern/Gatwick Express and South West Trains is that season ticket holders are entitled to a refund of the First Class portion of the fare for the affected journey. And passengers with tickets which would be retained by the barriers can always retain them if they show them to barrier staff. May 18, 2017 at 18:03

A couple of points 1 - unlike in France and Germany it is FREE to reserve a seat when you buy your ticket. No additional cost. If you do not get a seat you have reserved you can claim a FULL refund. The cost of your ticket therefore DOES INCLUDE A RESERVED SEAT. it's just down to you to actually reserve it ...

2 - The National Conditions of Travel are the MINIMUM standard and what all train operators have to apply. Most train operators go well beyond that and I can't think of anyone who wouldn't refund the difference in cost for first class passengers travelling in a declassified coach.

3 - yes it's a form you need to fill put but how else would you do it? it's like saying you want to return a dress and getting arsey because they want you to take it back to the shop.

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    Re point 1, many of the services that are most subject to overcrowding, ie the commuter routes, do not offer seat reservations, so what you write is a bit disingenuous.
    – MadHatter
    Jun 9, 2018 at 10:04

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