I have been booking some travel with National Express on the web today. However, I was initially that my preferred service was booked up (it looks as if it might have had something to do with my selecting an economy ticket instead of a standard one; they were both the same price anyway). Later on, I did manage that booking but the experience did highlight one thing: I was only told of unavailability when I tried to pay for the booking. It might have been better if the website was more dynamic in that it only showed you what was available rather than letting you find out several steps into the booking process.
The same annoyance affects web bookings on the Caledonian Sleeper services run by First ScotRail. Their Bargain Berth offerings bring another idea to mind. It would be a great help if availability could be seen at a glance rather than having to plough through several steps to meet dead ends as is the current way of working.
All in all, train and bus companies could learn from the likes of Aer Lingus who do present their fares in a far more friendly manner with the cheapest fare any single day displayed in a calender-esque table. It is true to say that the tariffs shown may not be all-inclusive with charges for taxes, baggage and seat reservations in there but you do get a very quick view of when’s the least expensive time to travel. A lot of cross-fertilisation has occurred between the different modes of travel already and not always for the better; just travel in Virgin’s Pendolinos and contemplate a possible source of inspiration for the window designs. However, it would be good to see some best practice shared rather than having to endure a “Personal Trainer” on the National Rail website.