Leaving the city: what lies beyond the tunnel for intermodal transportation?

Fréderic Le Bris

European Portfolio Manager, Thales Group

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The All Ways Travelling (AWT) consortium, which Thales and Amadeus are a part of, has started their engines with a distant but challenging finish line in sight: allowing passengers anywhere in Europe to move easily from point A to B via multiple modes of transport. Last autumn marked the shift into first gear as another consortium member, Zeppelin University, delivered a study on multi-modality. This led the European Commission to give the green light for phase 2 of the project shortly after.


AWT has now reached a roundabout:  this phase involves developing possible scenarios to demonstrate the technical feasibility for a multi-modal information and booking system. AWT is now investigating what can and can’t be done with current technology and how to overcome existing barriers. And, obviously, the needs of travelers, retailers, service providers, operators, and regulatory bodies are central to the project.

To this end, the consortium will explore:

  • A multi-modal one-stop-shop platform to search, book and plan a door-to-door journey
  • Ticketing interoperability between transport modes
  • Coupling Near Field Communication (NFC) and bank payment card (EMV) technologies with smart devices to allow seamless ticketing  across different transportation infrastructures
  • Provide relevant real-time trip information to the individual traveler while managing disruption

Considering the vast web of European transport providers, fragmentation of IT systems and scarcity of shared, good-quality data, the obstacles ahead are not to be underestimated. With the advance of promising technologies, though, it is already possible to integrate functions across transport modes to enable door-to-door trips.

In urban transportation, the sheer size of infrastructure networks, huge passenger flows and other specificities (such as anonymous and unbooked trips) will make the challenge even greater when attempting to meet with the operational concepts of air and rail.

Even though only a small fraction of urban travelers currently travel beyond their city (not to mention country), as shown by Zeppelin’s study,  market forces will eventually push for the creation of wider multi-modal systems as travelers express a growing demand for them.

Success will come in finding solutions which apply to existing operations of the urban, rail and air worlds, promote the emergence of a smooth passenger travel experience and mitigate risks for the providers. The challenge will be to reach these objectives without generating a massive cost burden to any party and remain aligned with the European Commission’s vision for the major upcoming Shift²Rail initiative.

I firmly believe that AWT is well equipped to tackle the complexities that lie in multi-modal transportation and deliver its promise, backed by the participation and expertise of BeNeRail and UNIFE for rail transport, IATA for air, Amadeus travel technology and Thales for the urban part.

Watch this space, as later this year we will dive into exploring what an intermodal trip across two major European cities could actually look like with an integrated demonstration.


Traveler Experience, Connected travel, Multimodal Travel