My first 100 days at Amadeus: why listening to the rail industry can enable us to help shape its future

Thomas Drexler

Director of Rail and Ground Travel, Amadeus IT Group

For those of you I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting, I was appointed Director of Rail at Amadeus back in October 2011. As you may know, rail is an integral element of Amadeus’ New Businesses portfolio, sitting alongside hotel and airport IT, as the company expands further beyond its original strengths in airline distribution and IT.


With this in mind, I thought now would be a good time to talk about some of our thought leadership activities that have marked my first 100 days at Amadeus, as we strive both to understand better, and ultimately to influence, the changing landscape of this dynamic, ever-changing travel sector.

Frankly, I have relished the opportunity to support the rail industry through a period of great change since joining from Deutsche Bahn, and that remains undiminished as we move towards the end of the first quarter of 2012. Indeed, recently the industry has witnessed de-regulation, competition and modernisation dominate the global rail agenda, with the European Commission’s Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area and the first stages of TAP TSI standardisation coming into effect. Over the past three months, I’ve been delighted to work with our customers to understand how we can help support them in this evolving industry landscape.

At this important crossroads in the industry’s development, we have also been focused on understanding the trends and drivers that will shape the future of rail. In November, we launched a landmark passenger survey which was commissioned with leading international market research company YouGov, which asked some 7000 travellers in seven European countries about their needs and expectations at the rail station itself as rail becomes increasingly high-speed and international.

The results of the survey revealed new traveller insights to inform and support the new age of rail: for example, 46% of respondents wanted rail companies to know their total travel itinerary in advance of travel (e.g. connecting flights, hotel accommodation and car rental). This shows how rail companies will need to re-evaluate the way they approach their customers as they face increasing competition over the next few years. Creating a customer-centric business will be essential to establish competitive advantage. At the same time, and on a somewhat lighter note, our research revealed who travellers would most like to sit next to on a long-distance rail journey. The results were surprising and differed from country to country, spanning the worlds of film, television and even politics!

If we come back however to this idea of creating a ‘customer-centric business’, it’s important to note that this is something that quite clearly poses its own technology challenges. In January, we launched a whitepaper authored by esteemed futurist and forecaster Professor James Woudhuysen, Back on Track, which looks at the opportunities that an outsourced approach to IT can deliver for rail companies. Coming as I do from an industry background, I understand the particular challenges that rail companies face as they seek to modernise – and this whitepaper outlined how many of these could be alleviated by taking an outsourced approach. For instance Back on Track argues that the rail industry, which has long been held back by legacy IT systems, should consider adopting next generation IT solutions, similar to those used by other travel companies such as airlines, to raise productivity, cut costs, and improve the customer experience.

Whilst the concept of a truly outsourced community platform, a shared system used by rival rail companies to manage customer processing, would in theory transform the industry, what we’re really striving for is genuine and multi-faceted collaboration. What we mean here is an environment where Amadeus is able to help rail providers embrace new technology and innovation but in a piecemeal way where providers are still free to use and outsource only those processes and technologies which fit with their commercial strategies.

I very much look forward to the rest of 2012, as we seek to fulfill the full potential of rail.