Having booked myself the obvious three days off work in December to join up the bank holiday weekends for Christmas and New Year, I thought I might as well book the train tickets back home too.

Logged on to RSH (one of the few operators still willing to post you the tickets for free) and bashed in my dates and times. The cheapest single from Oxford to Macclesfield on 23 December after 1700 (with Railcard)? £39. No sign of an advance single.

Hmm. Maybe RSH being weird. Try East Coast? Nope, same prices, same problem. Same deal with trying the morning of the 24th.

The National Rail Enquiries journey planner's calendar doesn't go up to the 23rd of December, and if you enter that date manually, it says you can only book twelve weeks in advance.

So, do we think RSH and East Coast would have told me that? Or taken my money? Being a regular reader of Private Eye's Signal Failures, the whole thing smells like shameless profiteering to me, but I'm not about to risk £20 finding out. I'll report back in two weeks.