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Volcanic disruption, an opportunity missed?

May 26, 2010
Author: Eve-Marie Morgo

When over a 1000 flights were cancelled during the volcanic cloud disruption, many travellers looked for alternative ways to get home. Stranded after a few days business or holidays and desperate to get back home, what was the alternative. Some travellers would have called their travel consultant, their assistant or their travel agency, the people that help them book their travel, and who book their travel on a regular basis.


This was a wonderful opportunity for the rail industry to open up its services and join together to get people back home. Whereas some services were enjoying vastly increased number of bookings others were not, quite simply because travellers and consultants/agents were unable to book onward journey or piece together their full itinerary. Gone was an easy way of showing what was available from a to b as you would expect from any airline schedules and availability computer display.


There are some excellent examples of trials and tribulations of travellers trying to get home or trying to get to an important meeting or family event, here was an excellent opportunity for railways to take new market share. However, what became apparent is that it is still difficult or impossible to book rail tickets abroad and that domestic train stations only list domestic destinations, or very rarely international destinations. Trying to get customers back from south Europe to north Europe became a headache and a great challenge.


An international e-ticket or even a pan-european journey planner would have been a great help to these passengers, the technlogy is available, the agreement of a standard is still being discussed. The "digital" journey planner database exists, but not readily available to third parties such as online, travel agencies etc.


This could have been the ideal opportunity to accelerate the modal shift from air to rail, do we have to wait for another eruption?


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