Via Rail suffers snafus with online booking engine

Canada’s national passenger train service, Via Rail, said its Web site booking engine was out of service Wednesday afternoon, tying up its call centre and forcing the company to ask customers to make in-person ticket purchases.

Via Rail, which offered no further explanation for the problems but referred to them as technical difficulties, said its agents were trying to answer calls as quickly as possible but that anyone wanting to travel on Wednesday or Thursday would be best to go directly to a Via Rail ticket booth, such as those at Toronto’s Union Station. The company also operates a number of kiosks where tickets can be purchased for travel along the Windsor-Quebec City corridor.

Via Rail’s IT infrastructure includes the Ask Via program, which uses intelligent service management software called IntelliResponse from ComText Systems Inc. of Kitchener, Ont. Four years ago, the company said it had received its millionth online query to its Web site since 2001, with only 1.5 per cent of these queries requiring a personal response. Online bookings at that point accounted for 10 per cent of its ticket sales.

The company had also announced plans to install a Bell Canada Symposium switch to bring its three call centres, located in Moncton, N.B., Montreal and Toronto, into the virtual realm with calls to the main number directed to the available customer service representative regardless of location.

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