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THE BUSINESS TRAVEL MAGAZINE I 39 The Review ON THE GROUND ➔ European rail travel gains momentum


A MAJOR survey of over 7,000 European rail passengers has revealed that over three-quarters of respondents would choose to catch an international high-speed train instead of taking another means of transport, if the cost is competitive. In addition to competitive pricing, survey participants said they would choose long distance, high-speed, international train journeys rather than flying or driving if it was a ‘more enjoyable and comfortable experience‘ (52 per cent); had a ‘lower risk of disruption and cancellations‘ (51 per cent); and if there was ‘seamless connections to other services such as car rental and flights‘ (46 per cent). The survey, conducted by


YouGov and travel technology specialist Amadeus, polled 7,000 rail travellers in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden on their expectations and preferences regarding long distance, high-speed rail travel. Being able to book a seamless


journey emerged as ‘the holy grail’ according to Amadeus, whereby one ticket covers every transport mode taken on one journey, bookable in advance. Nearly half of all respondents


said they would like to be able to pre-book onboard wifi access, and 38 per cent would like fast track check-in and security.


In the UK, 17 per cent of participants wanted access to VIP and business lounges at stations, a figure significantly higher than in other countries surveyed. When asked what they expect


to find at an international railway station by 2014, over 70 per cent of those surveyed chose straightforward comfortable


➔ Virgin Trains eyes expansion


be taking innovative ideas into account,” he adds. Branson is positive about plans


VIRGIN Trains has doubled its annual passenger numbers in the last seven years – carrying around 30 million in 2011 – and intends to strengthen its grip on the market. Richard Branson, founder of the


Virgin Group, says that innovation and quality have been the key drivers in growing passenger numbers on the West Coast line and says a strong bid would be submitted when the franchise


comes up for renewal in 2012. “Bids should be a beauty parade


of innovation and quality and not simply judged on bottom line results,” he says. “If you just go for the bottom line you will have the cheapest of everything and that’s not what people want. “We are waiting to see whether


the new franchise will be based purely on the bottom line, but are hopeful that the government will


for UK High Speed rail and says that Virgin would like to be involved in discussions about developing plans for urgently needed extra capacity. Tony Collins, chief executive officer of the Virgin Rail Group says, “We desperately need extra capacity in the rail network and anything that gives us that extra capacity has to be a good thing.” Collins says that in order to be a success a new High Speed route would need to be connected into the existing network. The rail operator scored 90 per


cent overall satisfaction in the most recent National Passenger Survey, the highest among long- distance franchise operators. It has introduced 70 new trains


at a cost of £1.5billion since 1997, and has reduced journey times between London and Manchester by 22 minutes, from 2hrs30mins to 2hrs8mins.


seating and relaxation areas. The second most popular service, mobile payments, was selected by 40 per cent of respondents, while other options included a concierge service and a gaming and entertainment suite. Nearly a third of Spanish adults expressed a preference for the latter, compared to a mere one in 14 of German respondents. Thomas Drexler, head of Amadeus rail, says, “Rail travel's renaissance is truly underway. The next three years will see the transformation of rail as it firmly establishes itself as a truly international form of high speed travel. The survey results provide insights into what rail travellers demand of rail companies in the future if they are to make rail a real option for cross-border journeys. The next frontier is to deliver a seamless travel experience based on knowing the needs and expectations of tomorrow’s traveller and this survey goes some way towards meeting that challenge.”


AVIS ADDS VANS TO THE LINE UP


AVIS has extended its corporate offering by adding vans to its vehicle portfolio. The new service, Avis Commercial Vehicles, will provide a ‘no turn-down’ guarantee on a range of commercial vehicles. It has created a joint venture


with Goodwood Corporate Mobility Limited, which will manage a network of suppliers, ensuring nationwide coverage, instant confirmation and fast delivery of vehicles. Corporate customers work


with a dedicated account manager and receive detailed management information. Commercial vehicles are grouped into six categories, from Group B – Ford Connect and VW Caddy, available within four working hours – to Group G, a Ford Transit Luton with tail lift available within two working days.


44 I THE BUSINESS TRAVEL MAGAZINE


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