Amadeus’ plans to create a “GDS for rail” around the world are being slowed down by the need to complete commercial agreements with the rail industry.
The travel technology firm has been working to create its rail distribution platform for more than five years.
The system now features around 90 rail operators including major European train companies, such as SNCF, Deutsche Bahn, Trenitalia, Renfe and Swedish Rail. It allows users to compare rail prices with airfares for the same journey on a single screen.
Antoine de Kerviler, global head of Amadeus Rail and Ground Travel, said of the rail GDS: “The ambition is still there and we are closer than ever. It’s still under construction – we are building it.
“What’s limited GDS distribution is the need for agreement with the railway in each country. TMCs have to negotiate with railways so that they can see several different railways on the same screen.”
De Kerviler, who was speaking at the biennial Amadeus Rail Forum in Prague, added that Amadeus hoped to speed up this process by creating a “merchant model” in which the technology firm becomes the accredited merchant for a railway instead of each individual TMC or travel agency.
“By creating this merchant model, we’re the merchant of record that has accreditation with the railway. This means we become merchant for the railway and can talk to agents.”
Only a few UK-based rail services - such as Heathrow Express and Eurostar – so far feature on Amadeus’s GDS platform.
Amadeus does offer UK train operating companies through a different system, thanks to agreements with UK rail specialists such as Trainline and Evolvi. But this means that users have to switch between different screens to compare rail and flights for UK journeys.
While Amadeus would like to eventually include UK domestic rail services on the GDS, de Kerviler admits that it is “not a priority” with more focus on adding rail services in central and eastern Europe – railways in Ukraine and Kazakhstan have recently been introduced.
“UK railways could happen but it depends on customer demand,” he added. “The UK market is very mature so it’s not a priority. We have lower-hanging fruit in other areas that are a higher priority for us.
“But we are going after all the content – content is king and the more content we have the better it will be. We are looking for more railways.”
Mirja Sickel, head of sales and marketing for Amadeus Rail & Ground Travel, said that the technology to improve rail distribution already existed but the development of the rail GDS was being held back by the requirement for commercial agreements with train operators.
“We have demonstrated that the technology is there but we need the industry to establish the commercial agreements,” she said.
“The connecting traffic between airlines and railways can work better if you have an end-to-end integrated ticket. But you need to agree who is handling or owning the customer.”
Sickel added that these combined air-rail tickets “would come” due to the demands and expectations of passengers who increasingly want a more seamless travel booking experience.
“We have seen some railways collaborating with other modes of transport,” she said. “Consumer expectations will drive it and the industry will have to adapt. There is a big opportunity to help the rail industry to grow.”