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Virgin Trains calls for compulsory seat reservations

Virgin Trains has proposed making seat reservations compulsory on long-distance trains, saying it would cut overcrowding and guarantee every passenger a seat.

The firm wants a 'reservation-only' system, meaning all ticket holders will be guaranteed a seat. Season ticket holders and those with flexible tickets, such as an open return, would need to book a seat before travelling.

It also says the current array of ticket options, including advance, off-peak and anytime tickets, is confusing. Virgin Trains is instead calling for a move to 'airline-style' ticketing, meaning there would be a single fare for each service available at any given time.

The price would be based on demand, meaning the ticket cost would go up as the train filled up. Passengers would still be able to buy tickets on the day at the station, but only if there were still available seats on their chosen train.

These are some of the proposals it has put forward as part of its contribution to the Williams Rail Review, which was established by the Government in September 2018 to reform the rail industry.

Virgin Trains runs the West Coast network connecting cities such as Glasgow, Manchester and London.

See our Cheap Train Tickets guide for more help cutting the cost of rail travel. 

What does the watchdog say?

Anthony Smith, chief executive of independent travel watchdog Transport Focus, said: "Do passengers really want compulsory reservations? They certainly want smarter ticketing that is simple to use, easy to trust, better value for money and flexible enough to suit the way we travel now.

"Some people will always need to just turn up and catch the next service. Others rely on long-distance trains to commute to work over parts of a route. Whether what Virgin is proposing could accommodate this is something the Rail Review must consider carefully."

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