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How could rail alliances improve mobility and customer loyalty?

May 06, 2013
Author: Philip Martin

This month, I got to speak to Schera Zekri-Chevallet, Thalys CMO (European high-speed rail operator covering Paris, Brussels, Cologne and Amsterdam routes) after their announcement to move forward with a new rail distribution strategy through the GDS airline channel.

Rail trends taking the industry by storm   

 According to Schera, the rail industry will need to adapt to the following rail trends: 
  1. Sharing rail data. The rail liberalisation and the increasing need in mobility, demonstrated in your Rail 2020 study, is pushing rail players to share their data. 
  2. Adopt a customer-centric approach. The rail customer experience is crucial across all contact points. Most of the operators should work on the ease of access to content and data.
  3. Door-to-door travel. Providing rail customers with a tool to calculate the price from A to B. And also potentially helping operators to know more about what are the costs behind that. it’s the right balance between what the customer is ready to pay for booking his journey and what the rail operator is ready to invest make door-to-door travel possible

Booking rail as easy and seamless as air travel 

This will happen when competition becomes a reality, like in the airline industry. We need to make the rail offer available and this can be achieved by partnering with the whole industry and with a strong political push from actors as the European CommissionWithout collaboration, we will not succeed in making operators share their data.

Waiting for the 4th package

The 4th rail package will facilitate international rail distribution. This will force rail operators making their rail data accessible for customers and for everybody. Having a common data readiness is a priority in order that customers are able to access rail easily throughout Europe.  I really hope that we make progress on this before 2020, otherwise, I don’t think we are going to reconcile the increasing need in rail mobility with customers.

The single factor that would make rail move forward

Rail alliances are key. The airline industry is an example of such alliances: it helps to better serve the customer and helps railways to remain competitive.

We need an organisation to aggregate and federate data from all parties, it can be the European Commission or even an IATA like in the airline industry. It needs an organisation in order to ease and ensure that we are not giving to a competitor something we don’t want to give, a “guardian” with some sort of governance so there will be the right use of what is displayed and used etc.

The rail journey to 2020

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