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Rail News Home High-Speed Rail

November 2009

Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Amadeus' Philip Martin: Challenges, opportunities surrounding U.S. high-speed rail development

Philip Martin is head of rail marketing for Amadeus, a global provider of travel technology services, where he develops and implements the company’s marketing strategies and tactics. Since joining Amadeus in 1990, Martin has held a range of senior management positions in the company’s hospitality, tours, car rental, airlines, insurance, ferry and cruise divisions. He has worked with the railway division since 1999 as business unit manager and head of ground and maritime product management. spoke with Martin at the U.S. High Speed Rail Association’s High Speed Rail 2009 conference in Washington, D.C. He discussed the challenges and opportunities facing the United States as it prepares to build a high-speed rail system, as well as some of the lessons it can take from Europe's high-speed rail systems.

Martin: What we see at Amadeus, especially from a European standpoint, the railway is one piece of [the travel experience]; however, there needs to be other pieces to it. You have to have someone who's going to use the train, but they are arriving in another city. They might be staying for the weekend so they might have to purchase a hotel stay or rental car. One of the biggest customers for Amadeus is the travel management companies on the travel agency side and their customers. When they are traveling, they want to have it all connect, whether it's a railway, hotel or airline. The difficulty there is with rail, it's very fragmented in Europe. I think America can take an opportunity to start from a clean sheet. They can look at what's happening [with] how rail is being distributed across different sales channels. They can take advantage of what's being done.

If you take the airline business, you have … a fabulous standard across the industry. Rail hasn't gotten there. Each railway in Europe, for example, has its own technology to be able to distribute their projects. They look very local, as well — basically selling within their own market — and they only just started to push in international markets. America will have one language, can sell from state to state rather than copying what's being done in Europe. They ought to be selling some sort of central offer so you can book any type of rail in America. If you're flying to another state and then maybe you want to take the train to get where you're going, it would be nice to book those two pieces together.

When you start to compete with airlines, you have to be able to offer the same services airlines do. It's one thing to say railways will work because people want to sit on the train and they enjoy the comfort and so on, but there are things the airlines do offer — loyalty cards, special offers — and railways will have to look at how they place themselves in the market and compare themselves with the airlines.

In Holland, KLM [Royal Dutch Airlines] and Dutch Rail have gotten together and rather than competing, they are complementing each other's services. They've even included changing the schedules of their airline on the short haul so it complements off-peak hours. An airplane is smaller and will pick up less people than what a train can do over peak periods, as well.

 — Angela Cotey 

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