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A position paper setting out a long-term ‘political vision’ for the seamless planning and booking of international rail journeys has been published by the Community of European Railway & Infrastructure Companies. However, independent passenger operators are disappointed at the lack of firm commitments.
CER said many online booking platforms now exist and national journeys are quite easily arranged, but the experience of booking an international trip ‘can leave much to be desired’ and passengers expect more.
Its vision for 2030 is to provide a seamless experience when searching, selecting, and paying for travel, including first and last mile transport, with passengers having access to ‘simple, reliable and comprehensive’ online information, tickets issued by different vendors being accepted throughout Europe and passengers able to easily obtain information on their rights and options when disruption occurs.
Concrete actionsSteps to be taken by 2025 include making timetables available to any interested party through the MERITS database. CER says it should be possible to buy tickets at least six and up to 12 months in advance, subject to availability of passenger data enabling operators to contact travellers in the event of an unplanned alteration.
The roll-out of the OSDM data exchange platform should make it possible to buy a single though ticket for international travel with multiple carriers on services without obligatory reservations.
A Europe-wide standardised API for selling rail tickets would make it possible to book international travel, including on trains with obligatory reservations, from a wide array of sales points, websites or apps. This would include dynamic pricing with different segments combined to offer the best price in real-time.
Other aims include increased harmonisation of ticketing conditions, and full digitalisation of tickets though the ETCD online ticket status database with onboard staff able to read any e-ticket.
Railway undertakings will work together to develop a real-time data service available to all relevant parties, and will further digitalise their services to support passengers in case of delays and disruptions
Longer term actions planned by 2030 include ensuring that timetables are available in a multimodal context and that ticket catalogues are available to other vendors under commercial contracts so that the whole of Europe is covered.
SupportThe position paper presents the political vision of CER members, with future implementation being subject to compliance with competition rules and other legislation.
CER called on the European Commission to provide a suitable financial and regulatory framework, including defining criteria under which inter-operator agreements would be deemed not to restrict competition. CER said the rights of data generators should be explicitly recognised in the forthcoming Data Act, with a principle of reciprocity while respecting trade secrets.
Friendly words but no commitmentsNick Brooks, Secretary General of the AllRail alliance of independent passenger operators, told Railway Gazette International that the position paper offered ‘friendly words but no commitments’.
AllRail would like to see a commitment to through ticketing across all operators, and a requirement for data to be made available which would allow third-party aggregators to show a full range of transport options for a given journey
It would also like a commitment to impartial retailing, with third-party sellers being offered the same commission on sales as operators’ in-house channels, ensuring independent retailers can generate the revenue they need to develop their platforms and be attractive to investors.
This article first appeared on www.railwaygazette.com
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