As the first quarter of 2016 draws to a close, it’s an apt time to reflect on the current challenges, opportunities and themes for the rail industry. One of the most marked trends shaping the context for rail operators is the shifting market dynamics of the wider travel ecosystem, with new modes and market entrants really making their presence felt.
Rail challenges as opportunities
These shifting dynamics are presenting rail companies with new challenges, as they compete with disruptive players such as car sharing and strong, established modes such as coaches. Tackling this should be at the forefront of every rail company executive’s mind this year.
But this isn’t a totally bleak situation for rail companies. Competition from new entrants doesn’t just create challenges – it also means new opportunities are there for the taking, if rail companies can collaborate with the competition.
Railways are becoming more attuned to the door to door travel
I believe the momentum when it comes to industry collaboration is only going to increase over the course of 2016, and that the market could expect to hear from providers who are teaming up to offer new services and options to the traveller. I also believe that Rail is still the number one form of transport, its convienient in a number of areas such as working time, city centre arrival and comfort. I see more collaboration between the last mile providers as inner cities begin to expand into the “electric” world of low emissions transport.
Railways are becoming more attuned to the door to door experience and will seek to tie in those local providers in order to ensure the traveler gets to their final desitination. We’ve seen this with airlines, where they offer hotel and car rental when you buy from their website. It’s an opportunity at travel shopping time to purchase everything in a bundle and not have to worry about searching through other websites.
Exploring greater collaboration with other partners and means of transport could lead to new revenues and greater efficiencies for rail companies, whilst meeting the traveller’s ever-increasing door-to-door needs. Travellers are becoming extremely tech savvy, and have higher expectations than ever before when it comes to their journey and ultimately their travel providers. They want to be able to book the journey they need, in the way they prefer - whatever combination of providers this might involve. Ultimately, by working collaboratively with other travel companies, such as hotels, rail can become an increasingly integral part of the travel mix.
It's all about customer experience
If we stand in the traveller’s shoes, we can immediately see how appealing this is. I regularly fly from Madrid to global destinations, and then travel onwards by train. If I can book my rail ticket and, at the same time and through the same interface, book my onward journey to my final destination, I can virtually cover my door-to-door journey in one transaction, and I’d probably be more likely to re-purchase this convenient option in future. Both companies win my custom, and provide complementary, rather than competing, services. This vision, however, requires collaboration between the rail provider and a new, sharing-economy competitor.
Clearly, technology is an essential part of this collaborative approach, and is already supporting initiatives that help rail operators’ effectively differentiate their service and brand from the competition, using open systems we are embracing the sharing economy.
Through a diverse range of solutions and partnerships, we are supporting rail companies to become more visible alongside, and integrated with, other modes of travel – so that they can both compete and collaborate effectively. The road ahead will undoubtedly be bumpy – but the rewards are there for the taking.
Read more about solutions helping railways to collaborate: