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Sail/Rail..not able to reserve train seats?

Canada
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Sail/Rail..not able to reserve train seats?

My wife and I will be visiting London in May from Canada, then on to Dublin via Sail/Rail ticket. I called Stena Line UK and booked the Sail/Rail just now, and received a Stena booking confirmation and a "train confirmation" code. I guess these codes basically confirm that we've reserved passage.

We were kind of hoping to ensure forward-facing seats that have a nice view out the window. That quest seems to be much more complicated than I thought it'd be, compared to how things go here in North America.

I asked Stena Line when I booked the ticket, and they said to call Virgin Trains, who operate the service. Fair enough. I then "online Live Chat"ted with a Virgin Trains customer rep, who said "No, we can't even pull up details of your journey, there's no way for us to reserve particular seats for you--call Stena."

I called Stena back, and their rep said that they're allocated a certain number of rail tickets from Virgin, and that's basically all they do. She said if they were mailing the tickets to a UK address, then perhaps they could arrange specific seat selection, but since I'm in Canada, all we can do is pick up the tickets at the station from a machine. She suggested I call Virgin, rather than Live Chat online, to see if there was anything they could do.

OK. I called Virgin, and was told there is basically no way to reserve a particular seat. In fact, when I enquired about possibly buying First Class tickets (hoping that that process would involve picking particular seats), I was told that "actually, First Class is random--you can book, we then send you a link, but getting FIrst Class is random." Huh?

So...is our only hope to show up at the platform very early on the Thursday we're leaving, and try to be the first ones on and grab an unreserved seat?

I find it so hard to understand this...surely there are enough tourists from abroad who would want to reserve specific seats in advance, that this shouldn't be regarded as such an unusual request? After all, no one on a sightseeing trip wants to be stuck in a backwards-facing seat with no window on a four-hour train journey through the English/Welsh countryside, right?

London, United...
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1. Re: Sail/Rail..not able to reserve train seats?

Your train confirmation code sounds like the code you put into the ticket machine at the station to collect you tickets. If seat allocation hasn't been done in advance (if it has seat selection coupons will come out of the machine with your actual tickets) you probably won't have trouble getting the seats you want if you are at the station when the platform is announced and your aren't travelling peak times. Train travel here is a lot more casual than in Canada I find as it is an everyday form of transport.

Sitting forwards or backwards you should have a good view either way.

Michelle

www.bluenosegirl.com

Stirling, United...
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2. Re: Sail/Rail..not able to reserve train seats?

You may not actually have reserved seats.

If you can collect your tickets *before* the day of travel (from almost any mainline railway station, doesn't have to be the one you depart from), if you don't have seat reservations then go into the travel centre and they should be able to reserve seats for you. There may be a small charge for this now (£2?).

London, United...
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3. Re: Sail/Rail..not able to reserve train seats?

The complication here is that Stena isn't part of the UK rail booking system. If you book an advance train ticket, it's very straightforward to book a seat at the time (often is is automatic). Because you've booked an international ticket through a ferry company, that's not happening.

If your tickets are for standard class, the seat configuration is 2+2 across the train. Obviously, only the two furthest from the aisle are near windows. Not all the seats will be lined up with windows. In each carriage, half of the seats will be facing forward, and half will be facing backwards. The train may reverse direction en route, so forwards and backwards swap over. Some seats will be arranged as two pairs of two facing each other over a table.

As Bobelinks says, book the seats yourselves for a small fee. If you don't want to wait until you reach London to get to a station to book, Virgin Telesales (+44 1709 849200) should be able to do that for you.

Blue Mountains
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4. Re: Sail/Rail..not able to reserve train seats?

If you can cancel your tickets try www.seat61.com on that site you get the opportunity to select your seats. However I can't book them from Australia. the price is 35.00GBP ea.

Stirling, United...
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5. Re: Sail/Rail..not able to reserve train seats?

Seat61 do not sell tickets; they just have affiliate links to Trainline or Raileasy; neither of which have an unblemished reputation.

Either way, the web based front ends are fairly limited in what they offer for reserving seats.

If you don't already have Advance seat reservations then almost any railway station can make seat reservations, and they have much more sophisticated access to the seat reserving system including selecting individual seats.

London
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6. Re: Sail/Rail..not able to reserve train seats?

I've done the sail/rail thing and yes all your booking does is simply allow you to pick up a ticket that allows you on to the train, and then later on to the ferry from the ticket machine, think of it kind of as an 'access' ticket.

In terms of arriving to the platform early, thats a bit hit and miss at Euston as they only announce the platforms about 10 to 15 minutes before departure time and everybody congrates on the concourse waiting for the platform to show. When the platform finally shows up there's chaos as everybody makes a dash for it. I did this trip at christmas when there were hundreds making the ferry trip due to the snow issues and I got a headstart by looking at the arrivals board for the the platform that the incoming Holyhead train was coming in to and taking a gamble it would be the same train leaving. So I was positioned by the entrance to that platform and the gamble paid off - I'd chosen the right one and got a good seat

Although we were then all booted off the train pretty quick as the staff discovered that all the doors on one side had been frozen shut with the icy weather and we weren't allowed to use that train. So that was another mad dash to a new train they announced.

By aware though at Euston that you can't just walk on to the platforms, theres a door on to each platform that is kept shut until the train is ready for boarding

Edited: 12 April 2011, 13:20
Canada
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7. Re: Sail/Rail..not able to reserve train seats?

Thanks everyone for your replies.

Bobelinks, when you say that "almost any railway station can make seat reservations for you", where exactly would I go in Euston if I wanted to pick up my tickets a couple of days ahead of time and try to make a specific seat reservation? Is there a "Seat Reservations Office"? :)

London, UK
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8. Re: Sail/Rail..not able to reserve train seats?

Unless you are planning to travel on the Friday before the late-May Bank Holiday, you should have no problem choosing your seats on the train to Holyhead and even if it is crowded when it leaves Euston, seats will become vacant before it gets to North Wales.

Guildford, United...
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9. Re: Sail/Rail..not able to reserve train seats?

You can get your tickets from any ticket machine at nearly all railway stations. Then go to the ticket office or the travel centre (if there is one) to make the seat reservations.

Stirling, United...
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10. Re: Sail/Rail..not able to reserve train seats?

The main ticket office / travel centre at Euston - look for a queue for Advance bookings/reservations or alternatively one NOT labelled 'immediate travel'. It may be that all positions handle all ticket types.