Monday, 30 November 2009

Europe's High Speed Railways stuck in the past

This from the BBC with a bowler tip to the Commuter...

Railteam, the alliance of European high-speed rail operators, has shelved plans for a Europe-wide common booking system because of increasing costs... The new system would have created a one-stop-shop for tickets for complete high-speed journeys across Europe.

So whilst nearly everybody is now convinced that High Speed Rail is the right method of travelling around Europe it would appear that the flabby state owned operators still can't be arsed to offer their customers single transaction ticketing.

Europe's railways - the transport of tomorrow (if you're living in the 1950s).

UPDATE: This from D1062...

Whilst the European ticketing dream alluded to is mere pie in the sky, there are a couple of institutions well served to guide you through the maze of European ticketing and serve as a one stop shop (albeit one that will give you lots of tickets) this side of the border.

I can recommend Deutsche Bahn UK (have your details ready and email them, they will call you back - ruthlessly efficient), and Ffestiniog Travel. Note for any rail staff, Ffestiniog Travel do not issue European FIP tickets.

UPDATE: This from the Globetrotter...

I am no apologist for Railteam, but as one who actually attended the presentation in Brussels last week (unlike the BBC), can I comment on your recent report.

The cancellation of the Broker ticketing system is really no surprise, given that it was hugely ambitious to try and develop something that could sell tickets from any station in Europe to any other, comparing and combining all the different fare options for each leg. After all, as any Doe can tell you it's bad enough negotiating the UK fares minefield alone! If Railteam are to be faulted, it is perhaps for thinking that it could all be achieved for EUR30m in the first place.

According to ticketing insiders, the biggest problem was combining 'closed' ticketing systems like SNCF and Eurostar, where inter-city trains are reservation-only, with the German camp that favours an 'open' walk-on strategy.

Because of EU competition rules, Railteam cannot set fares itself, but only act as a joint marketing facility. So as a more realistic option, the partners are negotiating bilateral agreements which will, I am told, put in place a basket of international fares between 7,000 principal destinations, to be sold via There may also be zonal add-ons for connecting journeys to and from these hubs.

Because airlines only serve a relatively limited number of O-D pairs, we have come to expect that through tickets can be booked and paid for online with one or two clicks. Given that there are so many more rail destinations, the options are orders of magnitude greater.

Only when airlines start to sell multi-modal through tickets from Little Piddling to Jernbacksnortle via Gatwick and Frankfurt, can we realistically demand that rail operators do the same. (Even assuming that the EU will let them!).