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Rail future trends from NS's perspective

March 07, 2013
Author: Philip Martin

Ron Heeren, Head of Distribution, NS Hispeed, spoke to us to get his view on the rail future trends that will influence the rail industry over this year. Read the whole interview! 

European rail travel in 2013

The leisure industry is really holding back. We have been reviewing the tax structure and the travel industry is very concerned about its impact. This is resulting in a reluctance to make leisure rail reservations. Moreover, the economy is impacting Holland, we see larger scale unemployment, so, if there are any developments in 2013 it will be more than last year as we become a “last minute” market.
 
For rail business travel the situation is similar to last year, however, we see a trend to move from first to second class quite often, caused by the instructions of the CFO to reduce travel's cost.
 

Better booking and managing European rail travel 

If there would be only one thing to better manage and book rail travel would be harmonisation. Due to Holland's geographical location, we face the situation of 80 million west inhabitants and 60 million in the south side. Our neighbour countries have their own tariff and yield management principles. Therefore, travelling from Belgium to Holland means that your sales system needs to cope with the different countries tariff structures.
 
If there was one single thing that needs to be changed it would be to make Deutsche Bahn and SNCF talk to each other to harmonise international rail travel. If it’s not harmonised, we would need expensive sales systems to cope with the booking dialogue in such a way that at least the customer does not have to go to school for one year to understand the different tariffs to go to Germany or France.
 

The most exciting thing within the rail industry

For sure it is high-speed rail. The success of high-speed rail operations is a reality: with France and Spain's development and Eurostar's growth. We see that the opening of the High Speed Line South is benefitting Holland. Of course we have one or two problems to solve when it comes to FYRA but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think we will have an exciting story to tell in Holland as well.
 

The best advice to someone starting out in the rail industry

I would say bring in airline experience. If you start in the industry, either come from the hotel industry where you have worked in a yield management environment or come from the airline industry where you have worked either in distribution or IT or the yield management environment because these are the items which are contributing to today's high-speed rail complexity. We have made it very… very complex because of the yield management principles, but here we are, we need yield management to have a healthy profit and loss and without that it will not be profitable, so if you even think of entering the international rail industry then first build up some experience, in either the hotel industry in the yield management areas or in the airline world.

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