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Building the Future railway: European rail summit 2016

December 14, 2016
Author: Marta Desviat

The European Rail Summit celebrated its 12th edition last November in Vienna. The event opens a dialogue between the different key players from the rail industry under the motto: 'The Next Generation Railway'. Keep on reading to learn the main takeaways. 

Technology is a powerful enabler to embrace innovation, to offer a viable alternative to competition and to help create the next generation railway. When we think about what this future railway could look like, there are two main pillars to consider:  

  • The first one, digital innovation and how railways can adapt to win the battle for the customer
  • The second, how can technology improve customer experience 



Digital transformation is not only a necessity for railways to adapt to changing consumer behaviours, but also a way to survive to the digital tornado. Digitalisation is changing the way we interact with technology, and this also applies to transportation. Services are evolving and so should railways, technology is changing the way mobility is offered, with many examples that prove it. Let's see how services within the travel industry are evolving thanks to the digitalisation. 

The best way to travel through Japan is by train

Japan Railways are taking part of the digital transformation by going mobile with their train Pass. Pass Japan Railways High Speed Train TicketBorn as a way to beat point of sales train tickets, the Pass is looking to put the customer first by using
. Travellers can download the pass on their mobile phone and use it whenever needed, without worrying
 about buying tickets at the station each time they make a trip. What is more important, Japan Rail is also looking at multimodality, by making the Pass valid on selected bus and ferry routes. The benefits for the traveller? A truly flexible way to get around Japan, to save money compared to buying tickets at the station and hassle free train travel. 


Artificial intelligence shaping the future of travel 

Robotics are quickly starting to change the ways in which we, humans, approach different aspects of Keikyu the robot using artificial intelligence in Japan Train Station everyday life. In this case, Tokyo's central station counts with new staff members: robots that use 
artificial intelligence (AI) to provide helpful information to passengers. What’s unique about this robot is their capability to read and express human emotions. The introduction of robots at stations will open up a new experience for travellers.

Railways should be ahead of the future and think about AI as a way to increase conversational commerce: payment, selling ancillary services or even upselling could be the next step for these friendly robots. 


customer at the heart of everything 

Improving the customer experience should be a priority for the rail industry. This can be done with technology, as an effective way to make railways more productive and profitable. 

During the event, Michael Stalter, Head of Business Development at Amadeus Rail & Ground Travel  took part in a session on how technology can enhance the customer experience. After the discussion, we have identified some trends that will play an important role for railways.  

Open Data and Big Data Analytics 

Open data has grown today into an agile and transparent development methodology that harnesses the power of collaboration. Virgin Trains Explorer APP is a great example of how using open data can change the customer journey - station navigation frustration is solved with their app. If a traveller is on a train journey to an unfamiliar station, then Virgin Trains app will help them find their way around platforms. 

Big Data analytics, for instance, will offer unprecedented insight into travellers’ behaviour, allowing rail companies to deliver a more intuitive customer experience. From offering ancillary services to providing recommendations about additional destinations to visit as part of an upgrade to the passenger’s rail journey, there will be plenty of opportunities to improve the customer experience.

Virgin TRAINS APP uses Open Data  

Collaborative economy 

The key from a collaborative economy perspective is to find a way to integrate into the travel experience. Which role does the collaborative economy play within the customer experience?
The answer is active listening and engagement. We have seen it with Uber or Airbnb, getting feedback at every step of the travel process is key to improving the customer experience. Flytoget and SAS are a great example of collaborative economy. They have partnered to make rail the choice transportation between the airport and the city centre. By developing a new app, customers can buy a train ticket in 5 seconds when inside the plane, get a barcode and they just need to scan it before leaving the airport. 


Technology proves to be a powerful enabler to build the future railway. Either railways lose trying to fight against new technologies or they embrace digitalisation to create a winning team and adapt to the changing environment.  


If you missed the chance to listen to Michael Stalter about how technology can empower customer experience, take a look at his presentation on SlideShare:   


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