Help! Online Booking Hell!

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AllWork

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Hi All,

Sorry if this first post comes off as a bit… well, ranty but I have spent over 2 hours today wrestling with the vagaries of various TOC online ticket systems when trying to book several journeys over the coming months. My hope is that you good people might be able to over some sage advice for the future (or a secret 'all-trains' website).

I frequently travel from AYW to various places and, in the past had the luxury of wandering past the station regularly where I could easily talk to a member of staff and sort out tickets.

For various reasons this is no longer as convenient and, being pretty tech-literate I decided to give my local TOC's website (ATW) a go. I tried to book the following journeys with miserable consequences (a few others as well).

AYW->DID I had hoped to travel via Bristol in some form but no one would offer this even when specified. ATW insisted on 4 changes (Smethwick, Snow Hill, Leamington Spa, Oxford) but London Midland offered two.

AYW -> EUS No problem on the train but I usually prefer to reserve seats on the 1500ish out of EUS to allow me time to grab some non-board food in BHI or BHM. No way to reserve seats on any train except the 1643 and connecting train to AYW.

So, am I just unlucky or is the process really this Kafka-esque? I can't believe that you cannot choose a journey, or specific train, or even - god forbid - a specific seat as with the Eurostar!

Thanks and apologies for the rant,

AllWork
 
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lemonic

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Aberystwyth to Didcot Parkway is not valid via Bristol, which is why no booking sites would sell you a ticket on that route, however you might like to know that Aberystwyth to Swindon is.
 

SS4

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Webtis sites are down at the moment, won't even give me a fare for CRD-BHM. In general "non-standard" journeys can be quite difficult although not impossible

AYW -> DID is a pain in the arse to get to come up
 

jopsuk

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It's possible (though the routing gods will be along in a moment) that Aberystwyth-Didcot via Bristol is not a "permitted route". Certainly East Coast's booking engine doesn't show any fares for it, though it does say it would take over an hour more than going AYW-Wolverhampton-Oxford-Didcot.

Reservations, you haven't told us what date- it is entirely possible that if it close then all reservations have gone...
 

DaveNewcastle

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Its possible that the journey you are propsing is not technically a 'permitted route' and so would require 2 tickets.
But I have a suspicion that there's more to this . . .
. . . .
Thanks and apologies for the rant,
No apology is appropriate.
The UK railway sytem which was privatised in 19996 has fallen into an unregulated free-fall ever since. When SS4 says:
Webtis sites are down at the moment, . . . .
he is referring to the software which rail operators use to sell tickets on their trains. This software was written many years ago, is full of bugs, has none of its original staff still working for the Company, and is now maintained by a French software Company, ATOS s.a., who outsources much of their work to the cheapest available market at the time (that curently appears to be in Mumbai - but is adaptable) and is a Comapny who won't suffer any pangs of integrity when pitching to the UK Governement for new Contracts (and the UK Government has no pangs of scrutiny in awarding its contracts to such unreliable software internationals. Evidentially. Private Eye is a good source of reports which the mainstream press prefer not to publish and frequently gives space to ATOS).

There were more bugs introduced to the ticketing system in January. Some of them are still there, but meanwhile ATOS has secured more government contacts.
I'm sorry that I can't help with your specific enquiry - but I am confident that others on here will do so - but I hope you'll take some comfort in the assurance that its probably not you that is wrong, but someone else who is being paid to provide us with a ticketing system - but can't.
 

bkhtele

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You could try google "national rail journey planner", enter your journey, then take advance search option (slightly below) and add via Bristol temple meads.

It offered me a price of £43.50 at 9.30 On 12/4 for example. Then choose buy & it will take you to FGW. They are selling you an advance to Bristol £30 plus an advance to Didcot £13.50.
If you buy them together and retain you journey planner you can combine 2 advances and take the next train to Didcot if your earlier trains are delayed.
Hope this helps.
There may be other more technical solutions, others will follow!
 

AllWork

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Thanks everyone for the really useful responses. Useful to know that Aberystwyth [AYW] ->Swindon is a bookable route. If it wasn't for the fact that I wanted reserved seats I would probably have booked an AYW->DID single and then had an interesting conversation when changing trains!

Reservations, you haven't told us what date- it is entirely possible that if it close then all reservations have gone...
That's true, I was booking for next week but what I was trying to do was to book on to the 1543 EUS->BHI and then the 1809 BHI->AYW (which would give me an hour to spare in BHI to nip to the airport, grab some food and get back to BHI in time to meet the train.

The systems (and National Rail, which I've just checked) will only show the 1643 EUS->BHI train and so you can't reserve seats. At least the National Rail site will, on examination, let you specify a longer change time (1hr) which facilitates this but when I get pushed off to a TOC website to buy the 1hr disappears.

I shouldn't complain too much about reservations as, for only the second time in about 12 years of travelling out of AYW, I am now sitting at a table in a new-ish looking carriage with a plug socket! This, believe me is cause for celebration down here in Wildest Westest Wales.

This software was written many years ago, is full of bugs, has none of its original staff still working for the Company, and is now maintained by a French software Company, ATOS s.a.
I had mistakenly thought that there were two systems somewhere behind the scenes so that is really useful to know. I am well experienced in government IT contracts so can fully believe that this is now in the hands of a private IT company.
 
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John @ home

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what I was trying to do was to book on to the 1543 EUS->BHI and then the 1809 BHI->AYW (which would give me an hour to spare in BHI to nip to the airport, grab some food and get back to BHI in time to meet the train.

The systems (and National Rail, which I've just checked) will only show the 1643 EUS->BHI train and so you can't reserve seats. At least the National Rail site will, on examination, let you specify a longer change time (1hr) which facilitates this but when I get pushed off to a TOC website to buy the 1hr disappears.
Agreed. It is a long-standing complaint that the National Rail Enquiries system allows the passenger to specify a longer interchange time but, when passed to one of the booking engines, either the interchange information is not passed on or the booking engine can't cope with it. Unfortunately, I don't expect this to change soon.
I had mistakenly thought that there were two systems somewhere behind the scenes so that is really useful to know. I am well experienced in government IT contracts so can fully believe that this is now in the hands of a private IT company.
There are more than two systems. In addition to the National Rail Enquiries system which is run by the train companies' trade association ATOC, there are a large number of companies competing to sell the passenger their ticket. All the train companies now do this, together with a number of competitors which are not train companies. Even ATOC have joined this market. There are now, I think, four families of booking engines, with similar software behind all sites within the same family.
 

island

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There are more than two systems. In addition to the National Rail Enquiries system which is run by the train companies' trade association ATOC, there are a large number of companies competing to sell the passenger their ticket. All the train companies now do this, together with a number of competitors which are not train companies. Even ATOC have joined this market. There are now, I think, four families of booking engines, with similar software behind all sites within the same family.
ATOC? Did you mean ATOS, or has the Association of Train Operating Companies started a site where you can buy tickets?
 
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