Train Seating Etiquette

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I travel by train to work most days, I posted on here with an issue previously and was given very solid and practical advice. I don’t really want to ask for advice this time, more see if anyone else has had a similar experience and if anyone reacted in a different manner. I’m not sure if this is the best place to post it but here goes.

I recently moved a little further away from my destination, and my new station has no ticket machine but as it is less frequently stopped at I get an earlier train which ALWAYS has a ticket conductor/guard on board which is brilliant. Very good service. This is not about the train but it is about a fellow passenger.

This morning I boarded my usual train and sat down. The carriage has rows of three seats on one side and rows of two on the other. I chose an empty three seat row and sat in the window seat with my bags on my lap to allow space next to me if the train gets busy at the next stop – this is unlikely as this is the stopper. There are plenty more empty seats in front and behind and to the side of me.

The ticket inspector approached me, whilst he was taking my card the train came to the next stop and he left me to go to the door. The doors open and a man walks in and comes and sits in the middle of the 3 seater, right next to me and puts his legs right up against mine and squashes his arms against mine as well.

The ticket inspector comes back to me and I hand him my card again and we complete the transaction, this was very awkward and concealing my PIN was difficult as the man next to me had moved even closer to me. Even though more people had moved onto the train and into the carriage the third space at the end of the row was still empty and there were several empty rows.

I get my tickets and with some difficulty I put them away in my bag. I said excuse me to the man several times as every time I moved, no matter how small I made my movements he was going to be jostled by my actions. I took my phone out to catch up on some social media, and the whole time I’m doing this he is staring at my phone screen. I turned it away and he made a disparaging noise.

I was very uncomfortable for the whole journey, I’m not a big fan of confrontation so I didn’t say anything, I think the situation threw me a little and I couldn’t think of saying anything. I considered moving to another row, but even though I’m not very confrontational - I’m also quite stubborn.

When it came to my stop I said “Excuse me” again, I thought he would be difficult but he got up out of the way and let me pass, but when I got to the end he sort of pushed me out of the way to quickly get back in to the window seat.

I’m wondering if anyone has had a similar experience, what did you do in that situation? I know he was well within his rights to sit next to me as it was a free space and I always have my bag on my knee. Is there any train etiquette I could call upon? Am I breaking any etiquette rules and should I have chosen a different seat?

I’m worried that he may get on the train again either tomorrow or another day in the future and I want to be able to avoid this situation again.
 
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James_D

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I dont think there's any etiquette required if he's clearly in your personal space and being passive aggressive. I would suggest that asking if he could give you a little more space in a polite way wouldn't be seen as totally beyond the pale. I know you said you're quite stubborn but is it worth ruining the journey just for that? If it was me and if I felt like he was going to answer back or get aggressive I would just move. Life's too short and some people are just natural a**eholes who will always be that way.
 

Deepgreen

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I travel by train to work most days, I posted on here with an issue previously and was given very solid and practical advice. I don’t really want to ask for advice this time, more see if anyone else has had a similar experience and if anyone reacted in a different manner. I’m not sure if this is the best place to post it but here goes.

I recently moved a little further away from my destination, and my new station has no ticket machine but as it is less frequently stopped at I get an earlier train which ALWAYS has a ticket conductor/guard on board which is brilliant. Very good service. This is not about the train but it is about a fellow passenger.

This morning I boarded my usual train and sat down. The carriage has rows of three seats on one side and rows of two on the other. I chose an empty three seat row and sat in the window seat with my bags on my lap to allow space next to me if the train gets busy at the next stop – this is unlikely as this is the stopper. There are plenty more empty seats in front and behind and to the side of me.

The ticket inspector approached me, whilst he was taking my card the train came to the next stop and he left me to go to the door. The doors open and a man walks in and comes and sits in the middle of the 3 seater, right next to me and puts his legs right up against mine and squashes his arms against mine as well.

The ticket inspector comes back to me and I hand him my card again and we complete the transaction, this was very awkward and concealing my PIN was difficult as the man next to me had moved even closer to me. Even though more people had moved onto the train and into the carriage the third space at the end of the row was still empty and there were several empty rows.

I get my tickets and with some difficulty I put them away in my bag. I said excuse me to the man several times as every time I moved, no matter how small I made my movements he was going to be jostled by my actions. I took my phone out to catch up on some social media, and the whole time I’m doing this he is staring at my phone screen. I turned it away and he made a disparaging noise.

I was very uncomfortable for the whole journey, I’m not a big fan of confrontation so I didn’t say anything, I think the situation threw me a little and I couldn’t think of saying anything. I considered moving to another row, but even though I’m not very confrontational - I’m also quite stubborn.

When it came to my stop I said “Excuse me” again, I thought he would be difficult but he got up out of the way and let me pass, but when I got to the end he sort of pushed me out of the way to quickly get back in to the window seat.

I’m wondering if anyone has had a similar experience, what did you do in that situation? I know he was well within his rights to sit next to me as it was a free space and I always have my bag on my knee. Is there any train etiquette I could call upon? Am I breaking any etiquette rules and should I have chosen a different seat?

I’m worried that he may get on the train again either tomorrow or another day in the future and I want to be able to avoid this situation again.

He sounds odd. If really uncomfortable you could move (you shouldn't have to, but it avoids confrontation). I don't necessarily avoid confrontation when it comes to other passengers' unacceptable behaviour, but it requires a judgement as to the 'condition' of the other person (i.e. drunk, mentally unwell, etc.) to inform the right decision in each case. Would I be correct that you and he were the only people in the group of six seats?

For the future you could try: sitting elsewhere on the train, or sitting in a seat where he would have to squeeze in between you and someone else when plenty of other seats are free. If he does sit next to you again under either of those circumstances - get up and tell the guard. Forgive the question, but do you think his motive was sexual? If so, have no hesitation in speaking to the guard quickly.
 

aformeruser

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The problem is really 3+2 seating. Some people arrange themselves in a way to pretend the middle seat doesn't exist, especially on Pacers which you could say isn't good train seating etiquette either.
 

Deepgreen

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The problem is really 3+2 seating. Some people arrange themselves in a way to pretend the middle seat doesn't exist, especially on Pacers which you could say isn't good train seating etiquette either.

3+2 seating 'misuse' usually involves the people at either end of the '3' using the centre seat for bags, spreading out, etc. Unless a third person came and sat on the end, that doesn't explain the situation in this instance. There's a world of difference between people spreading out when there is space available at their side, and this case, where there wasn't.
 
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He sounds odd. If really uncomfortable you could move (you shouldn't have to, but it avoids confrontation). I don't necessarily avoid confrontation when it comes to other passengers' unacceptable behaviour, but it requires a judgement as to the 'condition' of the other person (i.e. drunk, mentally unwell, etc.) to inform the right decision in each case. Would I be correct that you and he were the only people in the group of six seats?

For the future you could try: sitting elsewhere on the train, or sitting in a seat where he would have to squeeze in between you and someone else when plenty of other seats are free. If he does sit next to you again under either of those circumstances - get up and tell the guard. Forgive the question, but do you think his motive was sexual? If so, have no hesitation in speaking to the guard quickly.

Hi, for a start, I was unclear, there were only three seats, as in me in the window, a seat next to me (he was in that one) and then a third, then the aisle, the row in front had only one occupant, behind me was empty, and across the aisle there were two seats and there were no occupants, the train was by no means empty, but there were plenty of spaces. I think I was a little frozen at the time, I wish I'd moved, but I couldn't think to do it at the time.

I have no idea what his motive was, he rubbed his leg against mine, but I doubt he got much from it! Thank you for the suggestion, I will most definitely choose somewhere else next time.
 

Tetchytyke

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He probably wanted to "persuade" you to move so that he could nab the window seat. Some people are just weird.
 

Traveller54

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Hi, for a start, I was unclear, there were only three seats, as in me in the window, a seat next to me (he was in that one) and then a third, then the aisle, the row in front had only one occupant, behind me was empty, and across the aisle there were two seats and there were no occupants, the train was by no means empty, but there were plenty of spaces. I think I was a little frozen at the time, I wish I'd moved, but I couldn't think to do it at the time.

I have no idea what his motive was, he rubbed his leg against mine, but I doubt he got much from it! Thank you for the suggestion, I will most definitely choose somewhere else next time.
So it sounds like the seats were arranged bus style and you were hemmed in by both the man and the back of the seat in front. Very creepy indeed, this sort of thing can give us male passengers a bad name and lead to demands for the return of ladies only compartments.
 

Deepgreen

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So it sounds like the seats were arranged bus style and you were hemmed in by both the man and the back of the seat in front. Very creepy indeed, this sort of thing can give us male passengers a bad name and lead to demands for the return of ladies only compartments.

I deliberately did not assume that 'North Traveller' is female, but your point remains.
 
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He sounds odd. If really uncomfortable you could move (you shouldn't have to, but it avoids confrontation). I don't necessarily avoid confrontation when it comes to other passengers' unacceptable behaviour, but it requires a judgement as to the 'condition' of the other person (i.e. drunk, mentally unwell, etc.) to inform the right decision in each case. Would I be correct that you and he were the only people in the group of six seats?

For the future you could try: sitting elsewhere on the train, or sitting in a seat where he would have to squeeze in between you and someone else when plenty of other seats are free. If he does sit next to you again under either of those circumstances - get up and tell the guard. Forgive the question, but do you think his motive was sexual? If so, have no hesitation in speaking to the guard quickly.

I deliberately did not assume that 'North Traveller' is female, but your point remains.

I am a female - if this helps? I'm 27 too, and very short, not exactly "eye candy" my mum says I'm pretty.
 

168lover

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I travel by train to work most days, I posted on here with an issue previously and was given very solid and practical advice. I don’t really want to ask for advice this time, more see if anyone else has had a similar experience and if anyone reacted in a different manner. I’m not sure if this is the best place to post it but here goes.

I recently moved a little further away from my destination, and my new station has no ticket machine but as it is less frequently stopped at I get an earlier train which ALWAYS has a ticket conductor/guard on board which is brilliant. Very good service. This is not about the train but it is about a fellow passenger.

This morning I boarded my usual train and sat down. The carriage has rows of three seats on one side and rows of two on the other. I chose an empty three seat row and sat in the window seat with my bags on my lap to allow space next to me if the train gets busy at the next stop – this is unlikely as this is the stopper. There are plenty more empty seats in front and behind and to the side of me.

The ticket inspector approached me, whilst he was taking my card the train came to the next stop and he left me to go to the door. The doors open and a man walks in and comes and sits in the middle of the 3 seater, right next to me and puts his legs right up against mine and squashes his arms against mine as well.

The ticket inspector comes back to me and I hand him my card again and we complete the transaction, this was very awkward and concealing my PIN was difficult as the man next to me had moved even closer to me. Even though more people had moved onto the train and into the carriage the third space at the end of the row was still empty and there were several empty rows.

I get my tickets and with some difficulty I put them away in my bag. I said excuse me to the man several times as every time I moved, no matter how small I made my movements he was going to be jostled by my actions. I took my phone out to catch up on some social media, and the whole time I’m doing this he is staring at my phone screen. I turned it away and he made a disparaging noise.

I was very uncomfortable for the whole journey, I’m not a big fan of confrontation so I didn’t say anything, I think the situation threw me a little and I couldn’t think of saying anything. I considered moving to another row, but even though I’m not very confrontational - I’m also quite stubborn.

When it came to my stop I said “Excuse me” again, I thought he would be difficult but he got up out of the way and let me pass, but when I got to the end he sort of pushed me out of the way to quickly get back in to the window seat.

I’m wondering if anyone has had a similar experience, what did you do in that situation? I know he was well within his rights to sit next to me as it was a free space and I always have my bag on my knee. Is there any train etiquette I could call upon? Am I breaking any etiquette rules and should I have chosen a different seat?

I’m worried that he may get on the train again either tomorrow or another day in the future and I want to be able to avoid this situation again.

Well it is called public transport for a reason! Any wierdo can use it.:D I would of suggested moving to another seat or if he was making you uncomfortable speaking to the guard.
 

Khxds

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Some people are just not aware or do not care that they are encroaching on others' personal space unfortunately. It also sounds as if you subtly gestured that he was too close/invading your privacy (especially turning your phone away).

Personally, i would (and have in the past) just say excuse me as polite as possible as i get up, and sit elsewhere if there are spaces available. I understand not everyone will have the confidence to do this, but it makes for pleasant journey afterwards. You could also move into the next carriage if you are worried that they will see you sit elsewhere.
 
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Unfortunately there are plenty creeps around and it seems you met one, there was no need for him to be that close, no need for any physical contact between you so it looks to me like his motive was sexual.

Next time I'd suggest moving then if they follow you or you feel as though their actions are unacceptable alert the guard, we don't want you to be at any risk on our trains.
 

Bletchleyite

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Very odd.

I *have* bothered someone once by sitting next to him in the aisle side of 2 of a priority seat when there were other non-priority rows available at the time of boarding. The reason for this is that the train gets very busy prior to departure, and a priority seat is always my choice for the legroom - no point ending up uncomfortable in a non-priority row.

Why anyone would ever actively choose a middle I have no idea.
 

route:oxford

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I get my tickets and with some difficulty I put them away in my bag. I said excuse me to the man several times as every time I moved, no matter how small I made my movements he was going to be jostled by my actions. I took my phone out to catch up on some social media, and the whole time I’m doing this he is staring at my phone screen. I turned it away and he made a disparaging noise.

I was very uncomfortable for the whole journey, I’m not a big fan of confrontation so I didn’t say anything, I think the situation threw me a little and I couldn’t think of saying anything. I considered moving to another row, but even though I’m not very confrontational - I’m also quite stubborn.

When it came to my stop I said “Excuse me” again, I thought he would be difficult but he got up out of the way and let me pass, but when I got to the end he sort of pushed me out of the way to quickly get back in to the window seat.

I’m wondering if anyone has had a similar experience, what did you do in that situation? I know he was well within his rights to sit next to me as it was a free space and I always have my bag on my knee. Is there any train etiquette I could call upon? Am I breaking any etiquette rules and should I have chosen a different seat?

I’m worried that he may get on the train again either tomorrow or another day in the future and I want to be able to avoid this situation again.

There are always bizarre people on any form of public transport.

I took the slow train from Oxford to Reading one Saturday and sat by the rear facing window of a 3+3 bay which I had to myself as far as Diddyland . A church minister boarded there, stalked up and down the carriage, then stood looking at me. He then took a bible from his bag and placed it to my right, one on the mini table, sat down, took a cross from his pocket which he held towards me, a further bible from his bag then start reading from it looking up at me from time-to-time as he read staring intently.

All a bit odd.

Essentially, what you have to do is make sure you "own" your personal space. Try having little things ready that open up the space... Apply perfume or hairspray for example or hold a coffee cup in the "outer" hand. A larger umbrella is handy too.

Also, there is option to text an understanding friend and ask them to give you a call. Answer "DC Smith British Transport Police, Yes I'll be arriving at..."
 

[.n]

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If this was on an SWT train then drop me a pm and I'll give you a crime reference number that BTP dealt with last year in a similar sounding situation. This one did have sexual undertones and you sound exactly the same age/size as the girl I know. BTP blocadec the station for us the next day but it eventually took us until a week or so later or travellingon various trains before we spotted him again. Guard was really helpful and we got him arrested at the next stop. Turns out that on the day a other woman who was travel in our carriage had also been touched by him and also made a complaint.

He was banned from travelling on certain trains.
 

Sleeper

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...but when I got to the end he sort of pushed me out of the way to quickly get back in to the window seat.

I wonder, is it possible that the man was obsessed with occupying the window seat?

Some people have mental conditions which cause them to be obsessive about things that the majority do not see as a big deal. Some also have difficulty with inter-personal relationships and in appreciating the feelings of other people, especially if in conflict with the obsession. Maybe crowding out the "interloper" in the window seat has worked in the past?

If such be the case there's little point in standing on principle, because the person concerned may not even understand the principle, or may not give it any priority compared with satisfying the obsession. Depending on the condition, of course, helping such people behave more sociably is a skilled job, and it can take a long time to attain small successes.

I'd support the suggestions already made that you're best advised to move away, and even to mention why to the guard. But if you felt brave enough you could ask the person whether he'd like to have the window seat, or to swop seats.

Just lightening the mood a touch, I can think of a few occasions when transport enthusiasts of my acquaintance - people of usually normal behaviour - have been pretty obsessive about which part of the train/bus/tram they occupied - to view the mileposts, the driver, that curious junction on the left-hand side half-an-hour into the journey, etc, etc. May even have been guilty in a minor way myself!
 

iantherev

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There are always bizarre people on any form of public transport.

I took the slow train from Oxford to Reading one Saturday and sat by the rear facing window of a 3+3 bay which I had to myself as far as Diddyland . A church minister boarded there, stalked up and down the carriage, then stood looking at me. He then took a bible from his bag and placed it to my right, one on the mini table, sat down, took a cross from his pocket which he held towards me, a further bible from his bag then start reading from it looking up at me from time-to-time as he read staring intently.

Not all of us are like that - When I'm on a train I prefer the music on my iPhone....
 

moggie

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I think this man was being more than a bit weird. I'd go as far as saying that was a borderline assault. Clearly there was no excuse or reason for the physical contact made. What can you do about it?

Put your bag on the seat next to you. You can remove it when the train genuinely gets crowded. If this bloke gets on and asks you to move it (when other seats are available) refuse. What's he going to do, call the conductor? You can explain then - at the back of the train, in private making sure the conductor understands your genuine concern. They may also give good advice.

I'd would suggest sitting towards the conductor. If you see this guy again and he occupies the seat next to you, move seat immediately. Make your request politely but firmly. Don't encourage conversation. If the individual persists (unlikely) mention this to the conductor. There's not a lot they can do immediately but they will watch out for you. That should be enough to put this creep off.

Of course, they may be one of these socially awkward types who other than being just that and making you feel uncomfortable mean nothing more than to be friendly. They're just not very good at it. Only you can make that judgement but if you do feel uncomfortable there's nothing that says you have to tolerate this and nothing wrong in you being decisive for your own peace of mind.
 
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Thank you all so much for your advice. A part of me thought I was being a bit paranoI'd.
I think if this happens again tomorrow I will definitely move. I think that maybe there was an ulterior motive, and with the speed he tried to get into the seat I'd vacated I'm thinking that might have been it.

As for a sexual motivation, I don't necessarily think so, though I'm not in his brain, maybe he likes asda bags for life, hiking boots and f,eece jackets!

If it were to happen again I would be more certain, but I really don't want to find out. I will update if there is any news or if any of my fellow commuters (there's a group of ladies who I often travel with at that time who have later shifts than me on some days) have had a similar experience. I find it hard to believe it's just me. Then again maybe I was in his spot.

It wouldn't be good if we were all the same. I think moving swiftly and if he follows, definitely alerting the conductor is my best course of action. Have a good night fellow travellers.
 

silverfoxcc

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North Traveller

Whilst not a railway worker, am in a situation whereby 'reading signs' is being taught at the moment.
sounds like this chappie could be one of the fringe element who get their kicks by doing just what you described. I would certainly, should it happen again, contact someone in authority (is there a phone no for BTP?) and get it stopped before it escalates. On day his fetish may just take over and someone could suffer very badly. Rather a false alarm than something else.
 

Master29

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Very odd.

I *have* bothered someone once by sitting next to him in the aisle side of 2 of a priority seat when there were other non-priority rows available at the time of boarding. The reason for this is that the train gets very busy prior to departure, and a priority seat is always my choice for the legroom - no point ending up uncomfortable in a non-priority row.

Why anyone would ever actively choose a middle I have no idea.

That does irritate me when people do what you did, however, I can see your point. You have to expect people will want to use priority seats. Sometimes it isn`t the leg room that`s the issue but the arm room. It can`t necessarily be avoided but hey, when the trains isn`t that crowded then I make a point.
 

Peter Mugridge

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If that creep does this again, OP, I would suggest screaming the place down and yelling about him being a pervert and rubbing your leg. After all, that's all true and it'll also pretty much guarantee he will be dealt with on the spot - even if there's no staff around someone is guaranteed to call the police immediately.
 

Bletchleyite

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That does irritate me when people do what you did, however, I can see your point. You have to expect people will want to use priority seats. Sometimes it isn't the leg room that's the issue but the arm room. It can't necessarily be avoided but hey, when the trains isn't that crowded then I make a point.

If the train wasn't crowded I'd sit sideways across two non-priority seats. However, it was a train that would be full and standing before departure, so that would be inconsiderate of someone who would no longer be able to sit at all, or I would have to stand or block the aisle with my legs.

When the train became quieter later, I moved away.
 

Greenback

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This is definitely strange behaviour, and I don't think I'd be comfortable with it myself even though I am male.

Hopefully you won't see this chap ever again, but if you do spot him waiting on the platform, I'd make sure that I made every effort to deter him from sitting anywhere near me. Maybe I'd put a bag or something down on the adjacent seat just for the duration of that station stop. Maybe I'd go and hide in a vestibule until he'd decided where to sit, maybe I'd just go toa different carriage if it looked like he was going to get in mine.

If he did manage to position himself close to me, I'd simply move. If he followed then there's definitely a case for reporting that behaviour to a member of staff.
 

duncanp

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I would suggest reporting this to BTP anyway if you feel uncomfortable about it, or certainly if you see this man again.

It may be the case that BTP have already received complaints about this man from other passengers, and one of the things that they can do is put a plain clothes female BTP on to the train, and if he tries any inappropriate behaviour again, he can be arrested.
 

Greenback

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I don't think I'd report it at this stage, but NorthTraveller may feel differently, and it's entirely up to them.
 

DaveNewcastle

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I would suggest reporting this to BTP anyway if you feel uncomfortable about it, or certainly if you see this man again.
For similar reasons, I would suggest that if you ever encouter this person again, then you note your seat number or position, and go to speak to the guard and inform them of your concerns; identify where they are sitting and ask the guard to go through and have a look at them. It's going to be likely that they will come across this passenger again and will be able to spot any pattern of repeated suspicious behaviour, and if so, would be able to give evidence to that effect if there are grounds for taking action.

But if they're not told, they might never know.
 

David Emmott

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People putting their bags on seats when the train is crowded is selfish. Putting your bags on a seat when there is plenty of room is not, and it would act as a barrier to someone like this. You can always move them if there are people genuinely wanting to sit down.
 

aformeruser

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People putting their bags on seats when the train is crowded is selfish. Putting your bags on a seat when there is plenty of room is not, and it would act as a barrier to someone like this. You can always move them if there are people genuinely wanting to sit down.

If it's a small bag which will easily go on the floor or in the overhead rack then I disagree. Putting your bag on a seat is more likely to mean you get to keep 2 seats to yourself while others are more likely to get someone sat next to them.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Sometimes it isn`t the leg room that`s the issue but the arm room.

Rail passengers aren't supposed to have arms judging by the design of some seats. ;)

Without knowing exactly what internal layout the train being referred to in the original post had I think it's difficult to pass judgement. Yes sitting in the middle seat next to a complete stranger isn't what most people do if there's plenty of room but if the interior is like this: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4134/4809568847_7bc8207937.jpg then it's difficult to sit next to someone without getting very close to them. I was once sat in the window seat on a 3 seater in that layout and two small schoolgirls came and sat in the seats next to me and when the conductor came along to do a ticket inspection I had to stand up to be able to put my hand in my pocket to get out my ticket without risking elbowing one of them! You can also see from that photo everyone on the train is wider than the seats unless you ignore their arms!
 
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