London, 10 December 2020. American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) has published a report – Let’s go by train: Integrating rail into business travel – that examines what’s needed to make rail a better option for business travellers.
Developed with rail stakeholders from the UK and Europe, including Rail Delivery Group and key long-distance and international train operating companies (TOCs), Let’s go by train identifies areas where industry collaboration can make it easier for companies to make greater use of rail as business travel restarts.
The report explores the benefits that rail can offer business travel – including convenience, comfort and lower carbon emissions than air travel, helping companies achieve their sustainability goals. As the economy starts to recover, TOCs and station operators can provide the comprehensive hygiene and safety protocols that will reassure returning travellers.
However, Let’s go by train finds several areas where rail does not meet business traveller expectations. Rail content is not always available on corporate booking tools, making it harder for travellers select the train for their trip. Rail fares can be complex and inflexible. When disruptions occur, poor availability of information can frustrate travellers and make it difficult to make alternative travel arrangements.
Many of these issues stem from the fragmented structure of the rail industry, which has often hindered system-wide improvements. The report spotlights a lack of data sharing and difficulties accessing real-time, consistent information as key concerns. Let’s go by train concludes with five priority areas, identified by the report’s expert contributors, where the rail industry can work in concert to accelerate the delivery of customer experience improvements (see box below).
Jason Geall, GBT’s Vice President & Regional General Manager, Northern Europe, said: “Rail should be at the heart of business travel in the UK – it gets so much right, in terms of convenience, traveller experience and greener travel. GBT wants to work with our industry partners in the UK, and internationally, to address the gaps in the customer experience and make rail a truly compelling proposition for companies and their travellers. As business activity begins to pick up in 2021, rail can play a central role in the recovery.”
Putting rail at the heart of business travel: five areas for action
- Bring business travel into the industry conversation on improving rail
Companies, supported by travel management companies (TMCs), want to get more of their travellers onto trains. But for this to happen, the rail customer experience must improve and become more consistent. TMCs need to have a voice on key industry bodies to represent the specific needs of the business traveller.
- Set up a single strategic body to oversee the industry’s development
A unitary national rail authority can provide a centralised direction on planning and innovation across the entire rail system, including a clear strategy to drive the adoption of digital. This ‘IATA for UK rail’ could drive industry-wide standards while leaving room for individual TOCs to innovate and create differentiated products.
- Integrate to improve traveller interfaces
Digital is key to innovation and improved customer experiences. To spur digitisation, the new strategic rail body should set and monitor the terms for more open data sharing across the industry.
- Invest to improve reliability, extend connectivity and boost regional growth
Infrastructure investment is key to improving reliability and connectivity, particularly outside the UK’s main cities. This includes strategic investments such as HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. By increasing capacity, these schemes will enable more choice and competition, including new services from open-access operators.
- Give modern commuters a better deal
Even before the pandemic, changing work patterns were making the traditional commuter season ticket look out of date. With remote working now mainstream, modern commuters need more flexible, less complex, pricing models. The government should accelerate the rate of fares reform to allow the TOCs to offer more flexible season ticket options.
Download the full report here.
About American Express Global Business Travel
American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) is the world’s leading business partner for managed travel. We help companies and their employees prosper by making sure travellers are present where and when it matters. We keep global business moving with the powerful backing of travel professionals in more than 140 countries. Companies of all sizes, and in all places, rely on GBT to provide travel management services, organise meetings and events, and deliver business travel consulting.
Senior Manager, Global Communications & Public Affairs,
American Express Global Business Travel
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