FRENCH motorail has endured its most difficult summer yet due to the collapse of its reservation system at the height of the booking season.
The Torpak system handling Rail Europe's motorail services from Calais to the south of France and Italy went down in March, only months before it was scheduled for replacement.
Rail Europe communications manager Peter Mills said:"Fortunately, we could retrieve bookings made and as an interim measure reverted to a paper-based system."
This meant trebling the motorail staff and transferring all of the data into the SNCF system.
"Our telephone system became overloaded with calls from agents and clients and there were unavoidable delays in getting out confirmations and tickets.
"We know we've fallen way below our normal level of service, but once the ticketing has been done for the mid-August peak, we'll be back on track."
Motorail now operates from Calais to Avignon, Biarritz, Bordeaux, Brive, Narbonne, Nice and Toulouse, with Italian services from Calais to Bologna, Florence, Livorno, Milan and Rome. All except Calais-Nice are summer only.
Italy's longer-distance routes are outperforming the French services this year, largely due to the increasing popularity of Tuscany villa holidays. Return fares for a family of four in couchette accommodation are from £727 (off-peak) to £967 (peak) from Calais to Avignon; £771 (off-peak) to £1,049 (peak) to Narbonne; and £1,256 to Rome.
"Motorail still has great appeal and attracts a lot of regular users," said Mills. "Agents should put that across for the motorist, it saves a day at either end of the holiday, cutting out hotel bills, motorway tolls and saving on petrol."
Product enhancements introduced this year include an information pack, a bag of toiletries and a children's pack.
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