Rail chaos looms as booking system fails
• Problems with new booking system will affect those travelling to Edinburgh.
• No seat reservations or discounted advance booking will be available.
• Calls for compensation for affected travellers.
"It hasn’t crashed. It’s a new system. It replaces the 25-year-old mainframe from British Rail which had reached the end of its life and needed to be replaced. There have been a few difficulties for some people but the problems are being sorted. They are just teething problems. It should be sorted out in the next day or two." - ATOC SPOKESPERSON
Story in full THOUSANDS of travellers face New Year chaos after a new rail booking system failed.
People heading out of the Capital over the festive period have been told they cannot buy advance tickets - which are heavily discounted - and must pay full fares instead.
The glitch on a 80 million national reservation system, which was installed over Christmas Day and Boxing Day, means travellers are also not guaranteed a seat and face standing during journeys.
Both Virgin and First ScotRail, which operate services out of Edinburgh, have reported problems booking advance tickets for passengers.
The new computer system, which is overseen by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), replaced the 25-year-old booking system inherited from the old British Rail.
A spokesman for Virgin Trains confirmed passengers travelling south of the Border from Edinburgh had been hit by the glitch.
"The rail system inherited from British Rail which was shut down over the Christmas period. The new system kicked in on Monday. There have been some initial problems. It depends on the travel agent and the station. Quite a significant number of passengers have been affected.
"It is affecting some of the reservations out of Edinburgh. It means people can not get reservations."
A spokesman for First ScotRail also said its advance bookings had been affected, but confirmed customers could apply for a refund of the difference in their ticket price by writing into the company.
"We are working hard to transfer the new system. Advance bookings are not available, meaning people must pay the full fare."
A spokesman for GNER, which operates the East Coast Main Line, said passengers were still able to book advance tickets.
A spokesman for ATOC insisted the difficulties were just "teething problems", with some customers still able to book advance tickets.
"It hasn’t crashed. It’s a new system. It replaces the 25-year-old mainframe from British Rail which had reached the end of its life and needed to be replaced.
"There have been a few difficulties for some people but the problems are being sorted. They are just teething problems. It should be sorted out in the next day or two."
The new computer system was installed over the Christmas period as it was traditionally a quiet time on the rail network, the spokesman added.
Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald today called on the train companies to compensate passengers for the computer failure.
"The people involved with the technology and the people working with the booking system should offer a flat goodwill payment for these problems," she said.
"It would be a worthwhile investment on their part. People know computer systems can fail and understand they fail from time to time, but they also understand that it is a highly competitive business and there are other means of travel."
ATOC represents the passenger rail industry and has almost 30 members, including ScotRail, Virgin and GNER on its books.
The computer failure marks further frustration for passengers, with many already facing severe delays due to extensive engineering works across the rail network.
Earlier this month, it was revealed more ScotRail trains are running late with almost one in five services not making the platform on time.
The performance of ScotRail, which was recently taken over by Aberdeen-based transport giant FirstGroup, slipped between July and September this year and the same time last year.
The figures from the Strategic Rail Authority showed that 17.2 per cent of the Scottish franchise’s trains were late compared to 13 per cent during the same period a year earlier.
The SRA also revealed that a quarter of long-distance trains serving the Capital did not run on time.
More than 23 per cent of GNER trains and almost 25 per cent of Virgin Cross Country services failed in the punctuality stakes. The figures sparked calls from rail campaigners for a lift in performance from ScotRail and its new franchise operator FirstGroup.
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