Latest rail market trends from passenger rail Europe

Marta Desviat

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The recent Passenger Rail Europe Conference was a great opportunity to meet all major rail operating companies, transport groups, and industry experts, to share knowledge and opinions about the latest rail market trends in Europe, such as liberalisation, the digital transformation, innovative ticketing and bringing modernisation to the onboard experience, and last but not least, the significance of investing to improve security. 

Standardisation: a way to improve customer experience

The main focus on day one was on standardisation as a way to lead to a better customer experience. The access to worldwide products and new technologies have created a standardised marketplace in consumers’ minds, expecting to easily book any feature of a trip wherever they are. But within the rail industry, standardisation seems to be a pending issue and here comes the big question: should the ticketing systems of national railways be standardised to reduce the frustration of passengers when travelling?

Heightened security

In the wake of the latest European terrorist attacks, Eurostar was sharing their experience and knowledge about the safety measures they have been applying since 2001. “Time is money” when it comes to travelling for railway’s customers:

  • Increasing security measures should not mean increasing journey times.
  • Investing in higher security standards and ensuring customers tranquillity should be in the spotlight for railways.

Highlighting these principles, Eurostar is promoting security measures that are practical, proportionate, effective and sustainable.

Cooperating or competing?

One of the biggest industry questions is whether railways have to cooperate or compete. Is the passenger better served by a competitive market or by a market of collaboration?Collaboration between competitors is in fashion, and when it comes down to railways, they could look at the airline industry for inspiration.

Dutch Railways is defending that railways must cooperate and compete at the same time, urging to cooperate to offer passengers an integrated offer that leads to more flexibility and connectivity.

Maximising sources of ancillary revenue

Within a competitive industry framework where liberalisation is almost upon us, it becomes necessary to identify and invest in boosting revenue through ancillary sources. Railways need to identify the opportunities for advertising that the new digital channels offer, looking at changing customer interaction, behaviour and expectations. Currently, railways are assessing the utilisation of a smarter revenue management systems to play with the supply and demand features in terms of yield management. The main focus areas for a smart revenue management should be:

  • Increasing responsiveness,
  • Improving forecasting and,
  • Dedicated analytics.  

Employee engagement within the railway industry

It is important to understand the virtuous circle between employee engagement and customer engagement: happy customers are the result of content and engaged employees. HackTrain is currently modernising and changing the way railways have been seen. When keeping talent is a matter of time, speeding up the process dedicated to engaging employees helps creating a productive workforce. As the CEO of Campbell’s Soup once said, “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.”

Distribution: direct or indirect?

An ongoing topic for debate, also discussed during the conference: should the rail operator be the only one distributing rail services or should they apply an indirect distribution strategy and rely on some external sources such as online travel agencies? The trend seems to be about going omnichannel, and to do so, it is essential to create a back office system that allows this in order to boost your sales. At Amadeus Rail, we've been working towards just that: to facilitate rail integration into the travel ecosystem, be it online, direct or indirect with the aim to facilitate rail multi-channel distribution to boost rail sales.