The rail industry must adopt the next generation of IT solutions if it is to meet rising customer expectations, a new report says.

It says train operators to should accept the concept of a single, outsourced IT platform which could be used by all rail companies.

This would mean that “rail companmies would benefit from the latest technology whilst remaining free to innovate and differentiate,” the report Back on Track says.

This approach would transform the “rail experience” enabling personalised journeys including single tickets for rail and air trips.

The report is written by James Woudhuysen, a professor of forecasting and innovation, and sponsored by Amadeus, a travel technology provider.

Back on Track says rail has “long been held back by legacy IT systems and should consider adopting next generation IT solutions similar to those used by airlines.

Such a move would “raise productivity, cut costs and improve the customer experience.”  

A previous attempt to build a common rail IT platform began in 2007 when a group of train operators from European countries, among them Eurostar, SNCF, Thalys and Deutsche Bahn (DB), launched Railteam.

Equipped with a €30m budget, its goal was to produce a common booking platform for European rail.

The scheme was quietly dropped in late 2009 with Eurostar citing both the complexity of the concept and the harsh economic conditions for the failure.

A less sanguine view put forward by a specialist rail magazine at the time was that the Railteam people never actually managed to speak to any of the IT providers in the business.

Another attempt was started last year. In May, the EC adopted TAP TSI (Telematics Applications for Passenger Services Technical Specifications for Interoperability).

This aims to force European rail companies make sure they exchange relevant timetable and ticketing information.

2016 is seen as the likely date the improvements will start to happen.

On the new report, Woudhuysen said:  “The entire rail sector has an interest in IT systems that are collectivly deveoped and collectively applied.

“Coherent, accurate and single source data, speedily acquired and transmitted, intelligibly displayed, will make a big difference to every passenger.”

Thomas Drexler, director of Amadeus Rail, said technology was threatening to hold back progress on rail.

“We hope that this paper will promote new thinking and stimulate discussion about how best to capitalise on the abundant opportunites present in the rail sector over the next few years,” he added.

For full report please go to: http://www.amadeusrail.net/report/back-on-track

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