Amadeus Rail Innovation Forum - Rail travel on track
by David Chappell on Nov 4, 2019 4:57:25 PM
Just recently the Amadeus Rail Innovation Forum took place at Amadeus HQ in Nice. Numerous rail experts gathered to talk about the future of rail travel. The ongoing discussions on climate change encourage travellers to seek for alternative mobility options. Thus, rail travel is given its slot at discussion forums such as the Amadeus Rail Innovation Forum.
The simplicity of booking rail services increased over the years. Nonetheless, it's still a challenge to book rail services for business travel, larger volumes or international connections.
What is the challenge?
The distribution of rail tickets is very fragmented. Some international connections with the major rail operators are easy to book since agreements between the operators are in place. Scheduling a service from Hamburg or London to Paris is reasonably straightforward. Booking a rail service through several countries such as Hamburg-Lisbon or entirely abroad like St. Petersburg-Moscow is more challenging. Still, there is no central booking solution that integrates rail services globally. This forces agencies to book through numerous systems. Operating extra processes in the agency for every rail provider increases the workload. Therefore, in many cases, rail is no competitive solution compared to air travel. Anyhow, the demand for rail services is rising.
A brief overview of the options
Amadeus faces this challenge to simplify the booking of rail tickets. Amadeus currently offers three approaches.
Own booking tool in Amadeus
Germanies Deutsche Bahn operates the booking application NVS. NVS is the booking application of the (German) railway (Bahn) within Amadeus. The NVS interface transmits the booking in a separate Interface Record (BIR) that can be processed in Amadeus and, e.g. in MIDOCO. Unfortunately, only national content, including all offers, is guaranteed to be available. Depending on the agreements of the international partners, international connections are limited (e.g. no special offers) bookable. A further problem of this approach is that not all railway providers operate such integration or strive for it at all. Especially for smaller railway providers, the development of such an application is too costly.
Rail Display presents the entire range of services offered by rail operators, provided they have an agreement with Rail Display. Rail Display creates an AIR data set, which is one of the essential advantages of this solution facilitating data transfer to MIDOCO and Amadeus Reporting, for example. Unfortunately, Rail Display does not display the content of the national railway operator. For instance, as an agency in Germany, it is not possible to book trips with the German railways via Rail Display. National content is available through the NVS interface.
Moreover, each agency has to conclude a separate agency agreement with each operator in Rail Display, leading to a considerable effort. SNCF, for example, only offers its agency contract in French and also has specific conditions. In this case, the German agency would have to sign a French agency contract.
RailGo is a booking platform that aims to make remote railway service providers, in particular, more easily accessible. For example, the booking page simplifies bookings with Ukrainian railways outside Ukraine. RailGo does not provide data delivery from the system in the form of an interface record. Thus this approach leads to considerable challenges in the mid-office area. MIDOCO is working with Amadeus to develop an interface record standard for this purpose.
Further rail services solutions evolving
Evolvi and Trainline
More companies focus on making rail travel booking more convenient. Examples are Evolvi and Trainline. Evolvi seeks to make booking rail services based the UK easy on one platform, which undoubtedly is one of the advantages Evolvi brings to the UK. Evolvi knows both the British rail and business travel market well and can tailor the platform accordingly. Unfortunately, Evolvi offers UK content only. A separate booking solution requires specific mid-office processes. MIDOCO provides a solution for this problem because MIDOCO can directly connect individual booking systems and thus keep the process landscape in the mid-office lean.
Trainline simplifies the international access to rail services by bundling rail offers internationally and making them available for booking like Rail Display. Since Trainline obtains its content from the railway operators, it depends on the service offered by the railway operators.