With European high-speed rail networks already well established in countries such as Germany, France and Italy, rail travel is becoming an increasingly popular business travel option. Recent figures from the Association of Train Operating Companies
show train use on domestic air routes in Britain has jumped almost 60 per cent in the past six years. In the UK, the first phase of High Speed 2 (HS2) has established a route from London Euston to the Midlands and phase two will extend the route north to Manchester and Leeds.
Implementing a specific strategy for rail travel can help your company maximise its overall business travel spend. There are a number of elements to consider in your rail strategy:
1. Assess the pros and cons of rail travel versus alternative options
To maximise rail spend, a travel manager needs to carefully consider every aspect of rail travel and compare it to alternative options. Look at the total costs (including transfers), the length of the trip and the advantages of the final destination. Take into account your own capacity to negotiate deals.
2. Include rail travel in your corporate travel policy
Consider mandating specific popular routes, such as London to Paris, in your overall business travel policy. Rail travel should be treated similarly to air travel – consider restricting carriage class options and encourage advance booking to maximise potential savings. Also ensure that your policy includes ancillary fees.
3. Gain visibility of spend
At present, not all online booking tools allow rail booking, although they cover air and hotel bookings. Therefore, it is vital that rail spend is still tracked and monitored to ensure maximum visibility. For example, rail bookings made through a travel management company can be captured and reported back to the company.
4. Ensure benefits are communicated
Travellers may be unaware of the various advantages of rail travel and some may prefer air travel because of the loyalty schemes provided by airline carriers. If your company sees the value in rail travel, it should be communicated directly to travellers throughout the organisation.
5. Regularly update train routes in your policy
Rail networks are expanding very quickly, particularly in the US, Latin America and China. Rail networks in Europe have also experienced recent expansion. For example, in 2011 the LGV Rhin-Rhône link was opened in France linking Mulhouse and Dijon and speeding up rail links between Paris and Basel and Zurich, and between Germany, Strasbourg and the south of France. Travel managers need to keep up to date with these developments and regularly update policies to include all available routes. This will allow your company to better mandate usage of specific routes.
☛ Sébastien Marchon is director global consulting at American Express Global Business Travel