A new cadre of high-speed trains in the United States, Europe, and Asia is making rail trips as fast as plane trips, and offering a new challenge to travel agents and Web sites, which traditionally have focused on airline tickets.
Amadeus, Europe`s largest travel-booking system, this month became the first to offer an integrated display that includes both train and airline options, so a traveler headed from New York to Boston at 4 p.m., for example, will see schedules and prices for Amtrak`s Acela Express along with those of the Delta Shuttle.
The new system recognizes that high-speed train service along the Northeast Corridor and Europe`s Channel Tunnel is reviving interest in trains—“the Cinderella of the travel industry,” says Philippe Chérèque, Amadeus` senior VP of corporate strategy. Some observers say that, on strategic intercity routes in Europe, high-speed rail connections could capture more than 80% of airline business in the several years.
Amtrak`s Acela Express runs from Washington to New York in just two hours and 44 minutes—about the same time it would take to drive from downtown to an airport, fly, and then drive back to midtown Manhattan. Next month`s debut of the nonstop Super Express from Washington to New York will cut the time even more.