Over 60 rail, air and travel agency industry experts from around Europe recently met for the first ever Amadeus Rail Forum in Nice, France to discuss the rail industry and its future needs. Strategic partnerships and effective standardised distribution were identified through the discussions as being central issues in the future of the rail industry.
A discussion panel deliberated the impending deregulation and liberalisation of the European Rail market. During the panel, Eric Stokhuyzen, Director of Alliances, KLM, demonstrated the importance of strategic partnerships with rail providers in order to take advantage of the ever expanding network of high speed rail lines in Europe, especially in large populated areas: it is predicted that 10,000 kms of high-speed rail lines will open in Europe by 2020, (UIC, 2004). KLM have invested in a partnership with HSA - the company that, together with the Belgian railways, will run the high-speed trains between Belgium and the Netherlands - to offer seamless inter-modal transport (using a combination of air and rail in one journey) to travellers. They will provide a staggered schedule where both flight and train travel will complement each other in terms of travel times, ability to book the two modes of transport through one transaction and travel with one ticket as well as integration with airline departure control.
Steve Fosh, Head of Distribution, ATOC ltd, who represents 21 Train Operating Companies in the UK outlined the importance of effective distribution to capture the growing European rail market which is expanding at an average rate of 3-5 % annually (Global Industry Analysts, 2006). According to Fosh, UK Travel Management Companies (TMCs) generate over GBP 400 million per annum in revenues through train bookings. With the predicted continued high growth the UK rail market over the next 10 years, distributors will need to increase and improve their retailing capacity through the Internet, electronic payment methods and automation to take advantage of this growth.
Supporting the need for effective rail distribution was Gillian Gibson, VP, Multinational Customer Group, Amadeus, who highlighted that currently most TMCs have to use several rail booking platforms or websites, usually one per rail provider, to satisfy customer demands. Gibson stated that booking more than one railway is not productive for TMCs because it is complicated in front, mid and back offices and since the demand for rail is increasing, TMCs will need a single booking tool to make efficient and accurate reservations.
“We feel that the first Amadeus Rail Forum has been a great success,” said Albert Pozo, Managing Director of Travel Services & Leisure. “Holding an event such as this facilitates open discussions about the future of the industry and the challenges that are faced. This enables us to better understand our customers and the rail industry in particular, so that we can provide the solutions that enable the success in the growing European rail market.”