General Manager, Trainline Business
Historically, rail has been an under-served transport mode for business travellers, mainly because air and car transit have been the default options for many companies.
But that’s changing, notes David Higgins, General Manager at Trainline Business, the B2Barm at digital rail and coach travel platform, Trainline. Demand for rail travel is increasing among the business community for two key reasons:
Firstly, companies are beginning to appreciate that rail journeys can have more benefits than car and air. “Rail is more convenient and may be quicker, particularly for short haul trips,” says Higgins. “It’s also a more productive working environment.”
Significant investment has been made to boost in-carriage technology. Power-sockets are commonplace and the quality of on-train wifi is more robust than it was 10 years ago, which means more work can be done on the move. That’s good for business.
Secondly, there’s growing awareness that rail has a lower environmental impact than car and air journeys, and that companies who encourage their employees to travel by train are better able to meet their corporate social responsibility (CSR) targets regarding sustainability and carbon emissions. Rail generates less than 1/20 of the CO2 emissions of air travel and approximately 1/7 of the CO2 emissions compared with road transport, per passenger1.
…more infrastructure and investment is improving the quality of journeys and making it easier to travel by train both domestically and cross-border.
Emerging travel tech helps employees and employers
This is an exciting time, says Higgins — but it’s being made even more exciting by the emergence of disruptive technology, that’s improving the rail travel experience for both employees and employers.
For example, in the past, companies didn’t have the ability to compare the merits of rail and air, but now online business travel platforms are able to aggregate more data, making it easier to find, compare and buy.
“This technology demonstrates how rail can be a legitimate option for business travellers and helps them make more informed choices,” says Higgins. “Digital platforms showcase industry data for the benefit of the customer, such as platform and train delay information, and even show crowd-sourced information, such as train capacity. This empowers business travellers to better manage situations if things don’t go to plan during their rail journey.”
Investment is improving travel and increasing demand
Plus, advanced booking technology gives companies tighter control of their travel policies and allows them to make savings by, for instance, encouraging staff to purchase in advance.
Mobile and e-ticketing, meanwhile, has been a boon for travellers who no longer have to queue at the station in order to collect a physical ticket.
Now is the moment for the industry to capitalise on these changes, says Higgins. “A number of megatrends are coming together,” he says.
“Apart from the cultural and behavioural demand for rail, more infrastructure and investment is improving the quality of journeys and making it easier to travel by train both domestically and cross-border. And the increase of high-speed services means that business travellers are now realising that rail is a real and desirable option for them. One that can carry them into Europe — and beyond.”
1 European Government Agency Study (2014)