As we mentioned in our air-rail intermodality blogs last year, there is still a way to go before our vision of a fully integrated air-rail network is realised. The current lack of alliances between airlines and rail operators can be attributed in some part to factors such as the lack of government investment in the necessary infrastructure to support air-rail connectivity.
However, this is not the case when it comes to rail-to-rail alliances.
The onset of deregulation and the expansion of high speed rail networks across Europe are causing ever longer distances to be travelled by rail. As a result, passengers are increasingly demanding a similar service from rail operators to that which is offered by airlines – whereby their journey can be searched for and booked end-to-end, in one place and on one ticket, regardless of if it traverses both borders and rail companies.
At the end of January we launched a whitepaper entitled Back on Track. Authored by Professor James Woudhuysen, the paper argues that next generation technologies are making these alliances possible for the rail industry. Back on Track showcases the success the airline industry experienced following migration from legacy IT to a next generation system and argues that the rail industry could learn from some of these examples.
An outsourced community platform, a shared system used by rival rail companies to manage customer processing, means rail companies would benefit from the latest technology whilst remaining free to innovate and differentiate.
Increased partnership across the industry will remove the stress, uncertainty and chaos which are usually associated with rail travel in the 21st Century, as well as providing much richer, deeper and more personal travel experiences, allowing for personalised journeys, the selling of ancillary services and multiple options for ticketing.
In addition, the cross industry use of community IT systems would mean that rail companies could rely on a business community with shared interests to support commercial developments such as network collaboration.
As detailed in the global industry study we commissioned from The Futures Company, From Chaos to Collaboration, a combination of transformative technologies, evolving social values and trends are establishing a new era of travel. The companies that will thrive in this new era are those that meet these new expectations with innovation and a shift to the partnerships and collaborations that will enable this.
The technologies to facilitate such a shift already exist; it is now in the hands of the industry to think more creatively and build more collaborative partnerships to deploy these new initiatives to full effect.
If rail operators are to continue to modernise, grow and compete with airlines it is essential that they recognise this need for collaboration within the industry and begin to act.