National Express introduce evil seat reservation charge

12 May 2009

Amid rumours that they’re on the brink of handing back the franchise for the East Coast rail line, National Express have pulled a stinking added charge trick straight out of the bag that belongs to the budget airlines.

From May 17th, passengers travelling on the company’s East Coast and East Anglia services into Kings Cross will be charged £2.50 per journey if they want to reserve a seat. Charges will apply to ordinary standard type tickets including peak-time, off-peak, super-offpeak and weekender. The charge will not apply to first class ticket holders, advance fares or season ticket holders.

A National Express spokeswoman has spun the living daylights out of the reservation charge story until it thought its mouth was its backside. She told the Evening Standard that the company are trying to “improve the on-board environment for customers,” adding, “we do find that people are often reserving multiple seats as they're not sure which train they are going to catch. By asking people to pay for a seat reservation, seats will no longer be left empty with a reserved sign.”

We don’t know about you but our experience of travelling on packed trains with empty seats that are supposedly reserved is that those seats get snapped up pretty quickly, which makes her quote look like the steaming heap of horse’s arse cobbles that it surely is.

Reports elsewhere have suggested that in the face of mounting debts, National Express are close to chucking in the towel on the loss-making East Coast line and handing the franchise back to the government. The two parties are in discussions over the future of the franchise, but if National Express think that customers will flock back to their trains now that they’re imposing sneaky added charges, they’re probably sorely mistaken.

TOPICS:   Complaints


  • Mike H.
    Just sit in the reserved seats till some suited London type tells you "Thats my seat" then tut, roll eyes gather you smutty mags, bacon butty and tea, get up slowly and move to another reserved seat, easy peasy kiwi squeezy
  • CompactDstrxion
    I can't remember the last time I bought a train ticket for any distance that wasn't an advance fare, so this won't bother me.
  • JP
    Whilst I would not like to defend these guys for one second, they do need to reduce unused reservations. I use trains out of Kings Cross everyday, and often 2/3 of the train is "booked", although most of these punters never turn up.
  • Dave
    I agree with JP... Maybe you should get it back if you turn up though! Seriously every trip back out of kings cross - its full of empty reserved seats.
  • Robin
    Yeah, I've seen what JP and Dave have said too - hopefully this'll stop people reserving seats for journeys they don't intend to make. However, count yourself lucky you're not on the EastMidlands Midland Mainline route. That company are beyond contemptuous. I wish Midland Mainline could come back to the franchise! We forgive you!
  • a m.
    Dave makes a good point, they print out little receipts for reserved seats, so if you do take your seat you can collect the reserved receipt and get your money back. If you reserve a seat you don't use, you don't get your money back. Seems like a good plan..
  • Andy D.
    Good idea, but can't see an angle for naked, shameless profiteering....
  • Nobby
    I don't see why they cannot give you one free reservation per ticket. Then charge you a tenner if you also want to book a seat on another train just in case.
  • Shiz
    Profiteering on a loss making business?
  • Andy D.
    If they do it well enough, yes.
  • Dave
    Bring back GNER..... I think they were a little tiny bit less shit, and the trains were a nicer colour.
  • Tony
    Avoid National Express like the plague, and take Grand Central's service instead. North East to london and VV - much better service / much better prices..more scenic route, but a lot fewer trains :-( Still worth a punt though!
  • Richard
    ATM If you book via rather than NXEC's own site you get charged £1 booking fee but nothing for the seat reservations...

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