Computer failure throws French railways into confusion during holiday week

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The Independent Online

French railways were still in confusion yesterday after a computer failure brought all station ticket offices in the country to a standstill on Thursday.

French railways were still in confusion yesterday after a computer failure brought all station ticket offices in the country to a standstill on Thursday.

Ticket offices in the main stations were partly restored yesterday morning but passengers were still unable to buy tickets over the counter at hundreds of other stations throughout France.

Long queues developed in front of automatic ticket machines and railway staff were also selling tickets on trains and on platforms. The SNCF computer booking system broke down at 9.20am on Thursday, blocking all station sales of tickets for high-speed TGV, express and regional trains in the middle of a busy holiday week.

The break-down was attributed to a failure in transmission of data from the central computer server a day after SNCF updated its computerised ticket selling system. The network was restarted for almost an hour that afternoon but quickly shut down again.

A million passengers were expected at stations yesterday at the end of a week including the 14 July national holiday. The failure did not disrupt rail services. Railway staff reported that most passengers had been patient, although some may have taken advantage of the confusion to travel free.

Technicians worked all night but by yesterday morning the SNCF was still struggling to identify the cause of the failure. A virus has been ruled out. At midday, the booking service was reopened in all Parisian main stations and was gradually restored to other large stations yesterday afternoon. But attempts to restore the system in smaller stations were unsuccessful.

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