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Using Big data to boost travel efficiency

February 02, 2017
Author: Marta Desviat

It’s hard to determinate the enormous potential of big data for the travel industry as a whole. In 2013  it became the buzz word and we identified how it was about to transform rail travel, in our report ''At the Big Data Crossroads''.

What has changed and what is the impact of big data on the rail industry and the travel industry today? 

The report findings: a smarter travel experience 

Using Big Data to boost travel efficiency. Our 2013 report, ''At the Big Data Crossroads'', revealed that rail travel was set to become safer, more efficient and tailored to passenger preferences, thanks to the big data revolution, identifying three major areas impacted:  

  • Safety: making train maintenance more timely and detecting problems before disruption thanks to onboard sensors and predictive analytics.
  • Customer service: aggregating customer data, the analytical insights lead to better marketing and customer service.
  • Data management: reducing cost, as the technology associated to manage big data is free or low-cost. 

The main challenge identified was for rail companies to develop an effective strategy, unlocking the potential of big data to enhance products and services and the end-to-end customer experience. Let's see how far the rail industry has gone with the use of big data. 

 

Big data today: train delays, something from the past

The major advancement we have identified is the railways' use of big data to avoid delays, forecast disruption and act before it happens. By adding sensors to the trains, it relays data back to the engineers about the condition of the locomotive’s parts and rail tracks. 
 
  • Renfe, the Spanish rail network, is also a good example. Due to the high competition with air on the route connecting Madrid and Barcelona, they have partnered with Siemens to improve punctuality. Renfe guarantees train passengers a complete refund if the train is delayed by 15 minutes or more. The result? Only one of 2,300 journeys has been noticeably delayed in 2016. 

Big data analytics, a pending matter 

The travel industry generates a tremendous amount of data. Railways and travel sellers are in various stages of determining how to harness all that information to improve overall operations and customer satisfaction. Even though we have identified some advancements in the use of all this data, an analysis strategy still needs to be put in place. 

Big Data analytics, for instance, will offer unprecedented insight into travellers’ behaviour, allowing rail companies to deliver a more intuitive customer experience. From offering ancillary services to providing recommendations about additional destinations to visit, there will be plenty of opportunities to improve the customer experience. As a result, the rail travel experience will become more personalised

What do you think are the main challenges the rail industry needs to overcome in the area of big data? Share with us your comment below. 

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