Rail experts discuss changing face of industry at Passenger Rail Europe event

Borja Saki

Corporate Communication Senior Executive, Amadeus IT Group

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Some of the most senior and experienced leaders in the rail industry gathered in Amsterdam for the Passenger Rail Europe event to discuss key challenges and opportunities for the rail industry, ranging from cross-border travel, smart ticketing, to passenger information, Wi-Fi, and the digital transformation of the industry as a whole. Every rail carrier shared a common concern: rising external pressure as a result of threats such as car share services (Bla Bla Car in France) and coaches (recently liberalised in Germany), customer demand for more choice, and the availability of new cutting edge rail technology.

 Thomas Drexler talks about our partnership with BeNe Rail at Passenger Rail Europe.
Thomas Drexler talks about our partnership with BeNe Rail at Passenger Rail Europe.

The event kicked off with a presentation by BeNe Rail on how they reached the decision to support customer choice by selecting Amadeus as their technology provider amidst increasing external pressures. Charles Mander, Chief Executive Officer of BeNe Rail International, said that this partnershipis key in future-proofing their systems, while also allowing them to grow internationally, gain economic scale, and achieve operational excellence with long term sustainability. Our very own Tom Drexler was also on hand adding that Amadeus’ vision is focused on a collaborative and connected platform that achieves the best yield and provides the widest choice of content. He also explained that the community rail model is based on the success of the Altéa Suite – which has revolutionised Airline IT.

Michel Jadot, CEO, SNCB International, next mentioned that the digital channel will reach at least 60% of the turnover within 5 years. Jadot said that customers want a one stop shop for all their trips whatever the carrier, and they also want railways to work more with other transport modes to make trips more seamless.

Jean-Yves Leclercq, Executive Director, European Markets & International Development at SNCF Voyages, shared insights on how they’ve battled market stagnation by introducing a new low-cost high speed service in select routes and up to 40% lower priced fares, replicating the model of low-cost air carriers. Leclercq explained that this approach has been very successful for them with 3.2m passengers in 2014 and +7% growth last year, in addition to a nearly 90% customer satisfaction rate. He also added that they have unlocked a new market in the process, with half of the travellers being families with kids.


PKP Intercity (Polish railway), management board member, Marcin Celejewski, gave a compelling presentation on how in two years (2012-2014) they managed to revamp their complete business model to place the customer in the driver’s seat by conducting detailed customer research throughout the rail experience.

Finally, paperless ticketing took centre stage with presentations by Netherlands Railway, Keolis, and TfL. TfL showcased how they began to accept contactless bank cards to pay and access the London Undeground and buses recently – a very convenient option with no queues nor topping up involved - achieving a popular reception - All of the operators shared an overwhelmingly positive attitude towards ticketless rail travel, citing increased security, data acquisition, and fraud detection as being among the main benefits.

What were your impressions and key takeaways from the first day of the event?