GNER website relaunches just days before disappearing forever

Posted on 6 December 2007 in Transport (4 comments)

In a slightly curious move, it appears that GNER relaunched their website on Monday. For those not that well up on the comings and goings of railway companies, the reason that this launch is rather curious is that it comes just days before GNER will cease to exist - the company will run its last train on Friday.

Apparently, according to a press release I found (importantly not on the GNER media centre site, because they insist you're a registered journalist - no doubt releasing press releases to everyone would cause the world to end or something), the website took 18 months to develop, and uses a brand new online booking engine that is, interestingly, not powered by thetrainline.com. thetrainline.com seem to power pretty much every only railway ticket booking system I've come across.

Thetrainline.com have pretty much most of the online trainbooking market in the UK, so it's interesting to see someone else come into the fray and give them a run for their money. Having given it a quick run today it seems to have a nice interface and seems much faster than thetrainline.com, who have a habit of shoving a big "Please wait" sign up on screen for endless periods. And, in relation to my recent train hassles, it actually tells you if there's no seats available on the train you want.

By the looks of the press release, the new site is going to quietly morph into the website of GNER's replacement, National Express East Coast - presumably using most of this design. Notably GNER's website is currently in denial about the changes (something which happens quite a lot with railway company websites when their franchise is about to end, or so I've noticed!) but this must be the only time when one company has actively handed over a website, to another - warts and all. It also puts National Express in the position where they control access to a new alternative to thetrainline.com. Which is another interesting one given that National Express used to own rival service, Qjump, which they sold to thetrainline.com a few years ago. But if they keep up with the interface they will soon inherit, they will probably find my business (such as it is) their way soon.

Incidentally, whilst we're on the matter of trains, the ongoing saga of lack of seat reservations has now been solved. After about the 20th attempt, I got through to someone useful who, off his own back, looked at alternative trains for me, and booked us two reservations on a train running an hour later - later yes, but infinetly preferable to standing for 3 hours.

Clearly it was never a matter that reservations hadn't opened yet, but that, for some reason, the train was just fullly booked some time ago (maybe related to Blackburn playing Chelsea that afternoon?) Now if someone on the phone had, weeks ago, just offered the chance to look for alternatives - or better, the website had told me it was full in the first place, a hell of a lot of hassle could have been avoided.

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Kirk said:

There's been much talk over on uk.railway about this - apparently the marketing bods at GNER are staying on with NXEC, and GNER is effectively being run by the DfT at the moment, hence the launching it now "in time for Christmas", and NXEC still being able to say "look at our new site" next week.

Posted on 6 December 2007 at 5:06 PM

Frazor said:

Very curious. Looks quite nice tho, and shouldn't be difficult to rebrand. Is the booking system any good tho?

Posted on 7 December 2007 at 1:13 PM

Kirk said:

What is WiFi?

Also known as wireless fidelity, WiFi is any system providing full access to the internet without wires.

Hmm. Who wants to correct them...

Posted on 8 December 2007 at 9:10 AM

Andrew Bowden said:

Whoops - Andrew can't do dates. GNER actually run their last train today (Saturday)!

Didn't try the booking system all the way through to the end, but it seems pretty well designed - simple and speedy.

Posted on 8 December 2007 at 12:26 PM

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