AUSTRALIAN firm OneRail has developed a point-and-click computerised booking system for use by travel agents, marketed as Orion. Originally developed to replace an ageing mainframe legacy system at VIA Rail Canada, Orion is also used by Queensland Rail, State Rail Authority of New South Wales and Orient Express Trains.

The agent is guided through each step of the process, with an on-screen bitmap picture of the carriage layout allowing passengers to select a seat or sleeper berth. Orion handles both automatic and manual seat allocation. Special requests for wheelchair or other assistance are sent by fax or e-mail.

The reservation engine runs in a Unix environment, and booking agents can access it over the internet using a PC running MS Windows. Client/server architecture allows Orion to calculate quickly the correct fare, taking into account discounts, special offers or advanced booking. Complex rules are used to price automatically a journey between any two stations, and Orion supports up to 99 fares for any single booking class.

By interfacing with back-end financial software, Orion offers complete control over the financial aspects of transactions. The system is available under a transaction-based pricing contract, meaning there is no need for operators to make a major capital outlay. It can also be combined with the Sabre and Worldspan airline and travel industry Global Distribution Systems, or Onerail’s Odyssey. Galileo access will be available next year.