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I had booked a train from Manchester to Milton Keynes Central in about 2 weeks from now with the mobile app TrainLine, however recently I got email that the train got canceled.

What is a bit weird for me, if I go to the train company website, which actually runs the train service (Avanti West Coast) it still shows my booked train (the 14:15 train on the 3rd of April) in the timetable, without indicating it is canceled, while if I search for the same date in TrainLine it shows "No tickets available"

I really need to get to the place on that day. Can I trust if I book another train on the app in the same day it will actually go ahead? Is there some way in the UK to check for train disruptions?

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  • You can check all expected service changes (engineering work etc) on the National Rail site - bit odd that the two booking systems disagree though so there might be something else going on there. Agree we can probably give a better answer knowing the route/day. Mar 19, 2022 at 11:00
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    3rd April is a Sunday and engineering works are common on that day, especially on the WCML (West Coast Main Line), and cancellations, timetable alterations, and 'bustitution' (provision of bus transport for some of the journey) are common. Mar 19, 2022 at 12:09
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    Something similar happened twice to a friend of mine recently. She was notified on the morning of outbound travel that her Edinburgh/Manchester airport train was cancelled, however when she arrived early at the station to try to sort out an alternative, she found her original train was actually running. On the return trip, as soon as our plane landed she got an email saying her train was cancelled. She reclaimed her bags, legged it to the station and they let her get on an earlier train than the one she’d booked. Plus she was able to claim compensation.
    – Traveller
    Mar 19, 2022 at 18:12
  • If you have a ticket you have a contract with the railway to get you somewhere. So if the train you originally selected during booking does not run you can just take another train. There would not be a need to buy a new ticket. Mar 21, 2022 at 12:30

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Avanti have definitely been weird about releasing timetables over the past year or two, but their website claims the timetable for 2-3 April is available. Perhaps it has not made it through to trainline yet?

Testing a trial booking on both Avanti and Trainline, there is no 14.15 train - so I am guessing that what's happened is that:

  • the draft timetable had a 14.15 train (there is one on the timetable the week before)
  • trainline sold you a ticket for this train
  • they were notified by Avanti that the 14.15 is not running
  • they cancelled your ticket

However! Both sites agree that the 13.35 and 14.35 departures are not available, and offer to book you a ticket on the 14.55 (changing at Crewe). Trainline list all the direct tickets as "ticket coming soon", and Avanti list them all as "sold out". Tickets for all trains on the Saturday are available through Avanti.

It seems unlikely to me that all Sunday trains are completely sold out, so I think there is a decent chance that the Avanti website is wrong and they have not actually released the direct trains that Sunday - perhaps they are waiting for confirmation of engineering works on the MK-Manchester route before they fix the times? Direct trains are running both tomorrow (Sun 20th) and next week (Sun 27th), but tomorrow it is a 2h45 route and next week 1h33 - so you can definitely see the effect that maintenance work can have on the timetabling, even when the route is running.

If it were me, I would be happy to hold off a couple more days to let the system work itself out and try again. It is unlikely to cost any more (the price for the via-Crewe 14.55 on the 3rd is the same as the standard off-peak direct tomorrow) and I think it is unlikely those tickets will be completely booked up. However, you do have the option of committing now and locking in the via-Crewe ticket, which may well take longer but at least would be confirmed. If you book it through Avanti I think you should be able to change if needed, but I wouldn't be 100% sure that it would go smoothly, so caveat emptor.

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  • Thank you for your longer answer, seeing all those "Sold out" tickets on their website was quite weird, but I will wait couple more days and then probably book another option. Mar 19, 2022 at 12:26
  • @someone12321 fingers crossed! I would hope they'll have it sorted soon Mar 19, 2022 at 13:28
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    I would suggest the OP reads the email carefully, a train cancellation does not normally imply a ticket cancellation. Normally even with an advance ticket if your train is cancelled you can just get on the next train from the same operator without re-booking anything. Mar 19, 2022 at 14:47
  • @PeterGreen oh, that's a good point: I had assumed that if it was an advance ticket they would have cancelled & refunded it anyway (to let you rebook and get a seat on a service that was running), but definitely worth checking! Mar 19, 2022 at 15:04
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    @Andrew no, once it appears on the timetable, and you have a valid ticket, if it's cancelled your Advance will be valid on other trains. You'd want to check which other trains but the one or two after won't need any explanation - the one before can often be allowed too especially at weekends (they don't like it if it moves you into peak times on weekdays). I've had success contacting Avanti on Twitter for tricky things (@AvantiWestCoast) Mar 21, 2022 at 9:24
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Uk rail is in a bit of a mess at the moment.

The Covid pandemic has caused various issues, direct staff absences due to covid are one but far from the only one. A lot of driver/gaurd training was disrupted due to Covid measures. The Pandemic has also made the railway even more of a financial hole for the government and they are trying to tighten the belt leading to relationships between the operators and their staff and unions becoming more strained than usual.

The need to re-plan services to fit the staff available has also sucked up train planning resources, this has lead to timetables being confirmed and seat reservations released much later than they should be.

During the height of the pandemic most of the intercity operators made seat reservations compulsory, at least on paper. Currently my understanding is that none of the operators (except perhaps Caledonian sleeper who had compulsory reservations even pre-pandemic) are actually enforcing compulsory reservations on the ground, but some operators* are still marking their trains as "reservations compulsary" in the timetable data. Online retail systems (and an increasing proportion of ticket machines) won't sell you a ticket without a valid itinerary and that means if a train is marked as "reservations compulsory" they won't sell you a ticket against that itinerary unless they can obtain a reservation.

The data that feeds into the Retail systems cannot distinguish between a compulsory reservation train where all reservations have sold out, and one where the reservations have not been released yet.

National rail enquiries has a section for future engineering works, looking up your date I see there is disruption to Avanti services in the Preston area but nothing that would directly affect a Manchester to Milton keynes journey. There may well be indirect affects though.

This doesn't mean you can't travel, but it does mean if you want to be somewhere by a particular time then you should probably make a larger allowance than usual for delays and cancellations.

I don't use the trainline app, but normally re-booking is not actually necessary with UK rail tickets. If your train is cancelled you can just take a later one (subject to the operator and/or route restrictions on your ticket).

* It looks like GWR, Crosscountry, Grand Central and Hull trains have dropped the compulsory reservations flag. But Avanti, LNER and LUMO are still setting it.

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  • I know GWR have dropped "reservations compulsory" even on their mainline services (because that's howe I commute). Not sure about other TOCs as when I use them I'm almost always reserving a bike space. Mar 21, 2022 at 9:26
  • Looks like you are right, suprisingly crosscountry seem to have dropped them too. Mar 21, 2022 at 14:42
  • With the number off commuters back up it would be unworkable, and with no requirement for social distancing, not required. They need the money of course Mar 21, 2022 at 16:52
  • I agree the psuedo-compulsory reservations are counter-productive, either pushing people off the railway entirely or pushing people onto smaller regional trains rather than larger intercity ones. I'm just surprised that crosscountry who afaict are the intercity operator that has the worst issues with local/regional passengers crowding up their trains dropped them while Avanti and LNER kept them. Mar 21, 2022 at 19:12
  • One issue with crosscountry is that they have some rather useful bits of route where the local/commuter service is otherwise lacking because it doesn't fit into an out-of-date theory. I'm more surprised by anyone keeping them Mar 21, 2022 at 20:52
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There seems to be something strange going on. National Rails is coming back with an error Trainline has cryptic message

Seeing fewer tickets than usual? Advance tickets may go on sale later than usual due to COVID-19 disruption. Be first to know when tickets are available with Ticket Alerts.

So there seems to be some Covid related restriction on ticket sales but I couldn't find an independent source to confirm this or what the specific restriction might be.

Trainline allows booking for next week but National Rail doesn't. No idea why. The best you can do at the moment is probably wait and see. If there are still no tickets a week before the planned trip, you will need to start looking for alternatives.

can I trust if I book another train on the app in the same day it will actually go ahead,

No trip is ever guaranteed especially not with Covid making a mess of things. If someone actually sells you a ticket, it simply means that, at the time of purchase, they intend to operate the trip (or they are a scammer). But there is always a a small chance that they can't go.

I was in Europe a few weeks ago and wanted to visit my brother on the weekend. The night before the trip a big storm came through and pretty much all the trains that day were cancelled. So I couldn't go. These things do happen.

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There are a number of unoffical train information sites (that use the public datafeeds from national rail & network rail.) These can often provide more information that the official sites.

One of these shows that all the XX:15 departures that day have been cancelled (CAN) including the 14:15. It does show though that the XX:35 services are expected to run, albeit with a variation (VAR) to the normal schedule.

This site shows the XX:35 services require reservations though so you'll still need to find somewhere that can sell you a ticket.


Less useful for you, you can see how the 14:15 service is affected on other Sundays too. Here, for example, shows that the 'normal' timetabled (WTT) service was/is valid on Sundays from 12/12/21 to 08/05/22 but that there are changes (VAR) to the service on 20 March, 27 March & 10 April and complete cancellations (CAN) on 3 April, 17 April and 1 May.

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No, of course you can't. Nor could anyone else on any date or with any travel service provider. If such "guarantees" were available, how could your train have been cancelled in the first place?

For any given train to be cancelled even days in advance is almost unheard of, here in the UK or, I suggest, anywhere else. Most obviously, that suggests part of the track might be closed for maintenance; otherwise, it seems inexplicable.

There is no more way in the UK than anywhere else to check for as-yet-unannounced future disruptions to trains or any other mode of travel.

What is weird is that, having seen on the company website that train still listed as running, you haven't telephoned to ask what's going on.

What is really weird is that you didn't check what other train routes were available - for instance, going via London - or what bus services might get you where you want to go?

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    It's not helpful to tell the questioner that what they haven't done is 'weird', and being helpful is what this site is for. Mar 21, 2022 at 9:40
  • @MichaelHarvey Sorry and in cases like this, it is always helpful to point how 'weird' a Question is… though that was not what I did. In fact, telling the questioner that what "they" haven't done is 'weird' comes into this only through your distortion. Whether that distortion was deliberate or merely due to confusion, who could say? Did you really not notice "weird" came from the Question? Mar 25, 2022 at 22:06
  • @MichaelHarvey Why would you ignore the real point, which remains "If such 'guarantees' were available, how could the train have been cancelled in the first place? Mar 25, 2022 at 22:31

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