Brits “lead growth in long-distance rail travel”

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UK travellers will account for the majority of growth in long-distance rail travel in Europe up to 2020, a new report has found.

According to the report, which comprises of data from 100 sources including rail companies and regulatory bodies, the UK is set to see a 29% increase in passengers in the nine years up to 70 million of the total 238m expected between 2011-2020.

The UK is already seen as one of the “booming” markets for rail travel  between 2000-2011 although falls behind for high-speed rail figures. Around 90% of trips taken by all Europeans are still short distance (under 100km) with the UK only second to Germany in figures.

The report, entitled the Rail Journey to 2020, said liberalisation; new market entrants; high-speed lines completed; new hubs; air-rail and rail-rail cooperation; trends in ticketing and distribution and railway costs will all influence the rail industry up to 2020.

In the ticketing and distribution area, the European Commission is due to implement a new scheme in 2016 that will allow a more “joined-up” information and ticketing system in the EU.

Liberalisation has already made steps with open access rights for cross-border services in 2010, with new entrants and services in the domestic field to be opened up in 2019. High speed routes have already been implemented in Italy and Spain recently and will also help expand travel into Russia.

In addition, more hubs are expected to pop up in the next seven years particularly those that can serve both the airline and rail industries and improve connections. Other cooperations will come in the form of railway companies working together either through a joint venture or ticketing, with the same model for air and rail industries for interlining, codesharing and/or retail.

Thomas Drexler, director of Amadeus Rail said the industry remains “incredibly fragmented” across national borders with domestic trips accounting for the majority of travel but believes this will change in the next few years.

“Currently we can witness a global renaissance of rail travel but the next seven years will be critical for the European rail industry,” he said. “With increased competition, liberalisation, and the traveller of today demanding more from the travel experience than ever before, rail companies need a clear and honest view of the opportunities, challenges and threats that lie ahead.”

By 2020 the report said the industry will have to “learn how to share” while putting the customer first and has predicted the best co-operators will come out on top as customers expect a more seamless experience.

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