Trains

When planes take on

The Business Travel Magazine - - The Review - Dave Richard­son

The launch of Eurostar’s di­rect ser­vice from Lon­don to Rot­ter­dam and Am­s­ter­dam on April 4 will make more cor­po­rates con­sider rail for travel into Europe, although the ini­tial ser­vice is low key.

Two trains a day de­part from Lon­don St Pan­cras In­ter­na­tional at 0831 and 1731, with an at­trac­tive city cen­tre to city cen­tre jour­ney time of 3h 01m to Rot­ter­dam and of 3h 41m to Am­s­ter­dam – and a new, shorter jour­ney time of 1hr48 to Brussels.

At present there is no in­bound di­rect ser­vice, as the Bri­tish and Dutch gov­ern­ments have yet to agree on pass­port and se­cu­rity checks on de­par­ture, and this is not ex­pected un­til the end of 2019. In­stead, in­bound pas­sen­gers can jump on a Thalys ser­vice and change at Brussels to com­plete for­mal­i­ties, with a typ­i­cal end-to-end jour­ney time of around 4h 40m. Busi­ness travel con­sul­tant Nick Hur­rell, of 3six­ty­global, says: “Surely the UK Bor­der Agency could have sorted this fi­asco out sooner? The re­al­ity is that most peo­ple will prob­a­bly con­tinue to fly be­tween the cities un­til the gov­ern­ments get their act to­gether.” The lack of fre­quency and of a di­rect in­bound ser­vice will limit Eurostar’s ap­peal to busi­ness trav­ellers in the short­term. Trav­el­ling out to Am­s­ter­dam on the evening de­par­ture for meet­ings the fol­low­ing morn­ing and then re­turn­ing by plane is a fea­si­ble sce­nario, how­ever. And in the longer term Eurostar hopes to chal­lenge air­lines who cur­rently fly four mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year be­tween Lon­don and Am­s­ter­dam.

But Eurostar is never likely to be­come the dom­i­nant player as on Lon­don-brussels and Lon­don-paris, due to the longer jour­ney time.

The op­er­a­tor is also boost­ing its ap­peal to busi­ness with a new loy­alty scheme and re­newed fo­cus on re­duc­ing car­bon emis­sions. Club Eurostar re­wards cus­tomers for their fre­quency of travel and spend rather than the class they travel, and mem­bers can now spend points on up­grades, in ad­di­tion to free tick­ets and discounted travel, with no blackout dates or fees.

Are new rail ser­vices be­tween Lon­don and Am­s­ter­dam a sign of things to come? re­ports

eurostar’s long-es­tab­lished en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­gramme Tread lightly has cut car­bon emis­sions by 32% and waste by 50%, and a new ten-point plan based on the 2016 paris cli­mate agree­ment is now in place. eurostar’s newer trains – as used on all am­s­ter­dam and many paris and Brussels ser­vices – are all equipped with wifi, of­fer­ing a pro­duc­tive jour­ney end-to-end.

a jour­ney time of four hours is of­ten con­sid­ered the tip­ping point for modal shift, with some cities in north­ern Ger­many also within that range via a change at Brussels – cologne and Dus­sel­dorf, for ex­am­ple.

Many busi­ness trav­ellers have not con­sid­ered rail in europe due to the per­ceived dif­fi­culty of book­ing, but this is be­ing ad­dressed by on­line spe­cial­ists such as Voy­ages-sncf and Train­line, as well as GDS providers.

paul lacey, uk Man­ager of Voy­ages-sncf, says the new am­s­ter­dam route has sig­nif­i­cant po­ten­tial. “we are def­i­nitely see­ing sus­tained growth in busi­ness travel as the ben­e­fits of time, com­fort and the abil­ity to work and com­mu­ni­cate via wifi be­come more ap­par­ent,” he says.

“The GDS, of­ten linked to self­book­ing tools, and our trade web­site are the pre­ferred book­ing meth­ods for our TMC and busi­ness travel part­ners.

“The in­tro­duc­tion of print@home on eurostar con­nec­tion routes is a new fea­ture. paris, Brussels, cologne and north­ern french and euro­pean cities are still the most pop­u­lar with busi­ness trav­ellers be­cause of jour­ney times, but we have also en­hanced the of­fer in Italy and Spain.”

Train­line for Busi­ness re­search shows that busi­ness trav­ellers will opt for train rather than plane on jour­neys of four hours or less. “The shift to rail from air on high-speed in­ter­na­tional routes is be­ing en­cour­aged by busi­nesses for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons,” says a spokesper­son. “rail travel is vastly more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly, and the of­fice-tomeet­ing jour­ney can of­ten be faster.”

amadeus is lead­ing the way in con­nect­ing more train op­er­a­tors to GDS with in­vest­ment of €100million planned over the next five years. It of­fers book­ings on up to 90 train op­er­a­tors world­wide, with asia pa­cific be­ing iden­ti­fied as the next growth area. Train op­er­a­tors with Iata codes are shown in the same dis­play as air­lines. an­toine de kerviler, Global Head of rail and Ground Travel at amadeus, says: “peo­ple want the sim­plest pos­si­ble book­ing ex­pe­ri­ence us­ing mo­bile, but that can be quite dif­fi­cult for cross-bor­der travel as each coun­try has its own stan­dards. De kerviler adds: “we are work­ing hard to achieve bet­ter in­te­gra­tion in­clud­ing can­cel­la­tion, re­funds and ex­changes of tick­ets. cor­po­rate travel pol­icy is in­creas­ingly man­dat­ing use of rail and our aim is to make it as easy to book as air travel.”

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