What’s the key feature of a modernised rail industry?

Antoine de Kerviler

Former Head of Rail & Ground Travel, Amadeus

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As railways work towards a modernised industry, one might ask whether technology or business agility will be the primary driver. Recently, at Passenger Rail Europe in Amsterdam, I explored this question and more with rail players from around Europe.

Kid looking out of train's window

What does a modern rail experience look like?

  • We could dream that you could buy a trip, in minutes, at any time, from anywhere, pay the way you want, using a phone, a tablet, or the web. But also, you could get personalised assistance for all your special needs in a timely and efficient manner.
  • On board, you would have access to fast Wi-Fi, and be able to buy food, drinks, entertainment and services, and be able change seats and modify your return trip.
  • You’re always informed about the trip. Trains are reliable and running on-time. In case of disruption, the modern railway offers a solution promptly.
  • And last but not least, the modern railway is a profitable business, has safe operations, and reinvests in modern rolling stock and reliable infrastructure.

This is essentially our vision of a ‘dream railway’ experience. However, there seems to be a productivity paradox when it comes to most companies, and in particular, railways. While technology has improved, computers are faster and more powerful, this improvement is not matched by gains in productivity. To take full advantage of new technology, additional investment is needed to support business modernization. New organisational models and processes are also required to go from frenzy to synergy.

At the heart of these new organisational models and processes lies customer experience. Some of the most successful brands around are not based on competitive prices, rather they have perfected the customer experience.

For example, customers want to log in to their online electricity account and see a real-time report of their consumption. They expect to buy a phone from their provider and have it activated and set up immediately out of the box. They want bank loans to be approved in minutes. They expect all service providers to have automated access to all the data they provided earlier and not to ask the same questions over and over again.

The rail industry is no different from the examples above. Passengers want to be referred to by their name not their ticket number. On top of this, they want a quick and unified digital experience, and they want it now. The future of the rail industry will be one where the customer is at the centre of everything and technology can make this possible.

Were you at Passenger Rail Europe? What were your key takeaways? Send us a tweet to share your views.