The train operator, whose public-owned franchise contract is up in December, has launched a Scottish Executive fare of £99 return for its London-Edinburgh route, usually £299, as part of a new campaign to encourage business travellers to take the train instead of fly between the two cities.
The fare includes a free upgrade to first class plus WiFi, lounge access and other benefits. Its new ‘Try before you fly’ promotion will offer the fare until 2 March, with the company aiming to shift the perception of train travel amongst business travellers.
“The perception of rail travel is the biggest barrier as people do not realise it is often cheaper [than flying]; a mode of travel that is more relaxed; more productive and only takes three and a half hours,” Martin Turner, head of sales at East Coast told Travel Daily. “The key is that there is more productivity on trains for workers and it also helps companies reduce their carbon emissions.”
East Coast’s campaign rides off research carried out by Transform Scotland into air vs rail, although the campaign is set to gain more traction when charitable organisation Global Action Plan turns its focus onto travel. The behavioural change experts mainly have an environmental edge to campaigns but will nevertheless give clout to East Coast’s aim to switch travellers from air to rail.
In addition to the promotion the company is rolling out a loyalty scheme for agents through its tie-ups with thetrainline.com and Evolvi. Agents can accumulate points to spend on services onboard the trains or elsewhere including wine, cinema tickets or at Macdonald Hotels.
Similarly to others in the corporate sector East Coast faced a tough summer with the Jubilee and Olympics last year but has seen figures grow since the second week of the Games up to the year-end. “Our figures for 2012 were similar to 2009 so there is confidence back in the business market. We have seen recovery in the purchase of flexible tickets and travel during peak times too,” said Turner. “We expect the trend at the end of 2012 to continue into 2013. The levels are not are pre-recession levels just yet but are heading in the right direction.”