Further investments are needed to boost the use of rail

To support the shift to low-carbon travel and achieve net-zero goals, rail must be at the heart of business travel policies, said Jason Geall, American Express Global Business Travel’s senior vice president and general manager EMEA, who participated in the study online forum for sustainable travel organized by eu travel tech on Friday (September 30th).

As part of a five-member panel that included travel managers and EU policymakers, Geall urged rail companies to do more research into the business travel sector as more and more companies look for greener alternatives to short-haul flights.

“Railway companies need to be more motivated to engage in the corporate market to make the right level of investment in products and infrastructure. For TMCs like us, we also need to be motivated to invest and put rail at the heart of our strategy,” he said.

While acknowledging the current restrictions on cross-border rail travel in Europe, Geall cited the rapid rise of Eurostar’s international high-speed rail service and said more companies “need to follow the Eurostar model”.

Similarly, Nikki Parsons, Arcadis Global Travel Director, emphasized the need for more content to support the air-rail transition.

“We need to have rail content in the same booking channel as air to facilitate this switch as there is still a lot of rail booking on the direct channels. We also need this rail content that is available outside of the domestic market so that we can target our domestic travelers as well,” she explained.

Service parity is another issue when it comes to transitioning from planes to trains for business travelers.

“We need to look at disruption support, an equivalent of interline arrangements that we have with airlines and business products for travelers on the train so they can be productive while traveling,” Parsons said, adding that competitive prices and faster Trains will also help motivate companies to book more train travel.

In the wake of the pandemic, Denise Auclair, manager of Transport & Environment’s (T&E) Travel Smart campaign, which helps companies reduce travel emissions, said more companies are shifting to “smarter” and multimodal travel rather than travel reductions.

She believes companies need to increase employee choice and said the shift to rail is “exciting”, pointing to plans to increase the availability of night trains.

According to Auclair, rail produces up to five times fewer emissions per person per kilometer than air travel, but further improvements are needed to make this option more attractive to business travellers.

“We are working with partners who are trying to improve the policy framework for train interoperability and shared ticketing,” she said. The Travel Smart campaign also explores how increased demand from business travelers can help overcome cross-border challenges and “political deadlocks”.

On this point, the Director for Tourism and Proximity at the European Commission’s Directorate for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW), Valentina Superti, said “a lot of work is still to be done” on rail travel and multimodal transport easier and cheaper.

An increase in multimodal transport also requires the collection of additional datasets fed into reporting tools to enable travelers to better track and manage carbon emissions.

Integrating data at the point of sale to empower travelers to make greener choices was another topic highlighted by panelists.

“We are still unable to provide the carbon costs at the time of booking today. We’re still focused on tax costs,” Parsons said.

“Our distribution channels are highly fragmented today, and that fragmentation creates problems, especially when [providers] moving in different directions,” she said.

Leave a Comment