At Amadeus we strive to make booking rail easy because we believe it is a sustainable transport fitting into the door-to-door options for travellers. Rail faces new competitors such as car-sharing platforms and deregulation allows coach companies to compete, especially in Europe.The Amadeus Rail marketing team decided to do another travel experiment and try three different types of transport when travelling from Antibes in France to the Amadeus Rail Forum 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. Philip booked a bus from Eurolines, Katrin shared a car via BlaBlaCar and Eve-Marie took the train. Together, they tell us about their travel experience from a customer perspective.Watch the video of their trip here
The rail journey: Eve-Marie
I took the train and really enjoyed my trip. I first took a bus right in front of my doorstep to go to Antibes train station. From there, I hopped into the SNCF Intercités to Bordeaux, which would take me to Montpellier in just over 4 hours.
I was very lucky as I travelled First Class and the whole journey was very comfortable: large seats, nice food (although not free), and a socket at my seat to charge my phone which meant I could catch up on emails and do some work. I had a one-hour connection in Montpellier, meaning I had enough time to walk around the beautiful refurbished station and sit down for a coffee. Then I took my next train, a RENFE AVE, which went along the coast with beautiful scenery with the Mediterranean on one side and the salt marshes on the other side. I was in First Class and shared my coach with a group of Australian tourists, which ended up being three different groups going through Europe by train. After their tour of France, they were going down to Barcelona.
I eventually arrived in Barcelona Sants at 7:25 pm and took a taxi to my hotel to close my 9 hour journey! It was maybe a bit long and pricey, but for a Reward Hunter like me, it was definitely worth it!
The car-share: Katrin
Travelling with BlaBlaCar was definitely a great experience. The booking process is very easy; I was able to select from many different drivers, making sure they fit to my schedule and preferences. Once you arrive at your destination you pay in cash or give the driver a code and payment is made automatically via Paypal.
For the first leg of my journey (Antibes to Montpellier) I went with a couple in their sixties and I was very surprised to find how much people like them are in demand with BlaBlaCar. They told me that younger people find that travelling by train can be a bit pricey and that's why they offer them rides via BlaBlaCar whenever they have the opportunity to do so.
I then had some time for sightseeing before the second leg of my trip to Barcelona. I went with a girl who was moving back to Spain so the car was fully packed with me and two other travellers. But that was not a problem, we talked a lot - in four different languages - and time flew by.
Having looked at a lot of profiles, and from the experience on my trip, I would say that BlaBlaCar is something that attracts all kinds of travellers from different generations - and not only the young, as we might think. It was very cheap, took the same travelling time as going by train, and I met some great people on the way. Good memories. Travelling with BlaBlaCar was a fun experience I will definitely be using it again!
The coach trip: Philip
Ouch! What a journey. I was looking forward to a 12 hour bus journey in a comfortable Eurolines coach with Wi-Fi, TV, radio and air-conditioning. This was going to be a 12 hour trip from Nice to Barcelona across some of the most beautiful country side in southern France and passing through some wonderful medieval cities.
However, when I arrived at the bus station in Nice, the bus that was waiting for me wasn't the bus on the brochure. It was an old ALSA bus with 2 Spanish drivers that spoke no French or English. On top of that there were no toilets, so from now on I would have to watch my liquid consumption. There was a small consolation in that I was the only person travelling to the first stop in Marseille - I had the bus to myself!
Along the way, as young families boarded and back-packers crashed out across the back seats, the noise level started to rise. The bus stopped at most large cities along the way which is why a possible 6 hour journey turns into a 12 hour haul. The bus had to stop as well for - let's say - comfort stops. With Barcelona still 300K away we took a detour so that the drivers could have dinner. We arrived at the bus station at 2:30 am and I had lost all feeling in my backside. It was quite a trip.
I guess for the price it is ideal for back-packers and large families on a budget. If I was to do it again then I would go with friends to make the journey seem quicker. The price is definitely competitive.
The journey ratings
From this experience we can learn lessons about European cross-border multimodal transport:
Car-sharing is definitely a real competitor for rail as it offers a good customer-experience, a door-to-door facility and it's cheap.
Buses are part of the race too with cheap tickets, but need to make sure that what's on the brochure regarding comfort is what you get as a product.
Rail is definitely more comfortable but is being challenged for price.
At Amadeus we are very interested in the experiences of both business and leisure travellers. For more information, please download our free White Papers: