Rail Ticket Booking Fiasco; Passengers Cannot Reserve Seats until Two Weeks before Journey

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Byline: ANDRE PAINE

A ROW broke out today over a ticket booking fiasco on the railways.

Passengers are unable to buy tickets for some trains due to travel only a fortnight later because of a breakdown of the reservations system.

Train companies claim the problems are the fault of Network Rail, the engineering company in charge of repairs on the line. They say they are unable to sell tickets very far in advance because Network Rail is not giving enough notice of when lines are going to be closed.

But Network Rail hit back by insisting operators were not sending their revised timetables through quickly enough.

Passenger watchdogs slammed the failure of the system. A spokesman for the Rail Passengers' Council said: "We have asked the rail regulator to sort this out, because Network Rail and the train companies are just blaming each other. It is not good enough - passengers are the ones that are suffering."

The Evening Standard put five routes to the test and discovered that bookings beyond a few weeks away were difficult to secure.

First Great Western was unable to confirm sales for weekend rail services from London to Cardiff beyond 13 February.

Virgin West Coast admits passengers will have to pay more as it cannot guarantee bookings for journeys two weeks in advance.

GNER could not confirm bookings yet for weekend journeys to Edinburgh next month.

A spokeswoman for the Association of Train Operating Companies said: " Network Rail is obligated to provide 12 weeks notice of engineering work, but they are not coming up with that full information to train operating companies and this has been an issue for quite some time."

A spokesman for Network Rail insisted action was being taken and said the current horizon for advance booking averages four weeks across the network.

He said: "There is more engineering work than ever before and more trains running on a smaller network, so putting together a timetable is more complicated. …