Full steam ahead to a better connected Europe

Philip Martin

Former Head of Marketing, Amadeus Rail

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In the first of a new series of posts that will explore developments within the global rail industry, we take a look ahead at what the future holds for Europe’s high-speed rail sector.


Rail travel in Europe has experienced a revival over recent years. With increasing numbers of high-speed lines taking passengers direct from city centre to city centre, more travellers are opting to take the train in favour of other modes of transport for a more convenient, stress-free travel experience.

When the journey time is less than four hours, rail is a particularly popular choice as it is often not only the more relaxing, but also the faster, travel choice when you factor in airport transfer and queuing times. Of course that’s not to say that longer journey times can’t work just as well by rail – even for business travellers.

It is now three years since EU regulations opened up competition on cross-border international rail travel within Europe by allowing rail companies to operate outside their core domestic borders. Yet despite the many benefits rail travel, the vast majority of the European long-distance rail market is still domestic, with cross-border currently accounting for 6% of total long-distance passenger volumes. High-speed travel accounts for 30 per cent of long-distance trips.

The opportunity for rail operators to tap into this market is huge; the industry is changing and several factors are coming together to transform the current picture. Our recent white paper, “The Rail Journey to 2020” estimated that long-distance passenger traffic would increase by 21 per cent from 2011 to reach over 1.36 billion by 2020, as factors including liberalisation, increased competition and the completion of more than 5000 kilometres of high-speed tracks combine to create enormous opportunities for rail operators to grow their long-distance, cross-border business.

The impact will be widespread. As more standards for data exchange, booking and ticketing emerge, rail will become more accessible to the traveller and far easier to book at an international level. We’ll start to see greater collaboration, as well as competition, among rail operators as they look to distribute their content internationally through third parties and deliver an end-to end travel experience across multiple operators.

Just last month we saw Eurostar announce plans to begin operating services into Germany. This will be just the very tip of the iceberg as seamless cross-border travel within Europe becomes a reality.


Europe, Research