Corporate travellers are looking for flexibility, efficiency and fair fares with any transport option.
When we consider rail, in the recent climate of industrial action and price increases, can travel managers and bookers be confident choosing rail for business travel around the UK and Europe?
We explore why travel managers should continue to consider trains for their travellers.
Train travel is a sustainable choice
Rail is the most energy efficient mode of sustainable travel, making a positive impact on the environment. It generates much lower CO2 emissions than flying, as highlighted by both the European Environment Agency and the UK’s Department for Transport.
And, as main train stations are generally located in city centres, taking the train for a business trip cuts down the emissions that would be generated by transferring from the airport by car.
It looks like travelling by rail will continue to be the sustainable choice in the UK in the coming years too. Network Rail, for example, has pledged in its sustainability strategy to ensure the railways are carbon neutral by 2045 in Scotland and by 2050 in the rest of Britain.
Delivering environmental sustainability, by cutting carbon emissions, is one of the UK government’s strategic objectives for rail. The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) announced it will launch the Green Travel Pledge, in partnership with the Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT).
This rail industry initiative, part of the Business Travel Strategy (developed by GBRTT and RDG), aims to develop and provide granular industry data to inform journey choice, influence travel decisions and drive robust reporting.
IMPROVED SERVICES FOR CORPORATE TRAVEL ON THE HORIZON?
TMC engagement with rail providers is key to ensure they understand the needs of a corporate traveller. Reed & Mackay meets with rail providers, along with key customers, to provide feedback and insights on everything from features and services that travellers would like to see to regarding measuring its environmental impact.
“It’s also about education within our own space; we need our travellers to trust the timetables are going to be accurate – that is always up to the rail provider. But we’re engaging with the rail industry to achieve visibility,” Navan and Reed & Mackay Director of Rail Partnerships Stephanie Weaver says.
“Travellers are used to receiving notifications if flights are delayed or cancelled but they currently don’t get as much real-time information on rail disruption. It varies in the UK depending on the rail carrier and we would like it to be consistent.
“Historically, business travel isn’t something rail providers have paid as much attention to in the UK and, trying to get people back on trains after the pandemic, the average rail ticket price has become higher,” Weaver adds. “However, those providers are now starting to look at ways to entice corporate customers back to train travel and we’re advocating for elements such as business flexible fares, loyalty programmes, concierge desks at main stations and business travel lounges.”
ReducING the stress of travel
When booking corporate travel, traveller wellbeing should be front of mind. “With train journeys, you can avoid any stress associated with going through airport security. Once on board there’s no issue with putting your laptop away during takeoff/landing, so getting work done is much less stressful,” Weaver highlights. “Plus there’s the opportunity to stretch your legs, there’s more space to walk around and you can head to the buffet car for a break.”
Train travel can also be a less stressful journey as you’re usually travelling from city centre to city centre, saving time and reducing the cost of travelling from the airport to meetings in city centres.
INCREASED ROUTE CHOICES
Across Europe, initiatives are taking place that are actively encouraging more environmentally friendly rail travel.
“In France, at least a few flights between destinations with an existing rail connection of less than two-and-a-half hours have been banned,” Weaver says.
If you’re looking to travel in Spain, the country announced it will extend its free-of-charge travel on select short- and medium-length train journeys until the end of 2023. While the initiative – which was initially introduced to run until 31 December 2022 – is aimed at season ticket holders, international travellers have the option to claim 50% off their tickets on long-distance journeys in accordance with the scheme.
Collaboration across the EU also means more choice. For example, Lufthansa Group is to work with Italy’s state-owned rail company to provide better links between train and airline travel in the country.
And the European Commission is supporting 10 pilot projects to establish new cross-border rail links and to improve existing international services that include a mix of daytime and overnight sleeper services.
Facing up to the challenges
There may still be frustrations around the regulation and distribution of rail content but there is hope on the horizon. The EU has launched an initiative for a regulation called Multimodal Digital Mobility Services. This legal framework will ensure access to all rail content for all distribution channels. Adoption of the legislation is planned before summer 2023.
And Reed & Mackay is looking to connecting its technology ecosystem with a global rail aggregator towards the end of this year, meaning clients will have access to enhanced rail content.
ARE YOU A REED & MACKAY CLIENT? IT’S EASY TO BOOK RAIL TRAVEL IN THE UK
Reed & Mackay clients have access to R&M/Book, for easy, straightforward rail booking in the UK. Explore available travel options on demand with full access to Network Rail results and book a trip for you and guest in under 90 seconds anytime, anywhere. You’re also able to book rail together with accommodation, car hire and air travel and research preferred seat and location on the train. Booking online also helps your travel spend go further, saves time and allows bookers and travellers greater visibility and cost control.