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Up the Evolution! Our Manifesto is out

How can the rail industry realise its true potential? Well, if you read our ‘hot off the press’ manifesto you’ll see how.

Grab your copy of the Manifesto and join SilverRail: The Future of Rail Manifesto

Manifestos are often long on vision but short on practicality. Our manifesto is unashamedly visionary – that’s why SilverRail was founded – but our vision is underpinned by practical solutions. In short, if the rail industry has the collective will to undertake the complementary initiatives outlined in our manifesto, then the much heralded renaissance of rail will happen.

Rail already has so much going for it. The increasing availability of high speed rail services offers a credible, and more often better, alternative to air travel for short and medium haul travel. Rail travel is usually cheaper and always more environmentally friendly and, let’s face it, we’d all rather be sitting on a train watching the world go by than crammed into a plane. Moreover, rail is a key contributor to reducing congestion in major cities.

The rail industry, however, has yet to follow the air industry’s lead in addressing one fundamental issue – the customer experience.
Despite the increasing deregulation and internationalisation of rail travel, the end-to-end customer experience when it comes to technology interactions compares unfavourably with air travel. The continuing fragmentation of rail travel data forces travel managers and distributors to rely on offline operations which, ultimately, means unnecessary hassle for rail travellers.

Our manifesto identifies five complementary standards which, collectively, will offer a simple, smooth and scalable customer experience:

  • A unified code structure for all train stations
  • A common method of indexing journeys so that anyone, anywhere can plan, manage and book a journey no matter where that journey is to or from;
  • A transparent, compliant approach to traveller and journey data
  • A modern infrastructure for real-time booking
  • A seamless and convenient solution for ticketing and settlement

There’s nothing revolutionary here: the airline industry has adhered to these standards for years. But if the rail industry wants more effectively compete with air, then it needs to embrace innovative technologies and really reap the rewards of the renaissance.
Grab your copy of the Manifesto and join SilverRail: The Future of Rail Manifesto

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RAIL VS. FLIGHT: COMPARING PRICE & DURATION

Earlier this week I blogged about the Top 5 Reasons your Company needs to Include Rail as a Travel Option. I thought I would follow up by comparing the price and duration for rail and flight travel on some of the busiest corporate travel routes in Europe.

This comparison was performed by Phocuswright in April of 2015. They looked at fares two weeks before departure using Loco2.com for train travel and Expedia.com for flights. You can see the results in the table below.

In general, the costs for the two modes of travel are comparable, but the durations are skewed in favor of flying. However, those times do not include the time needed to get to the airport, the time needed for check-in and security, or the time needed to get into the city center at the destination. Once you add these items to the flight times, it will be a more accurate comparison. And when you add the other reasons to travel by train, rail becomes the obvious choice ☺

Rail vs Flight: Comparing Price and Duration
You can read more about these findings, and other related topics, at Rethinking Rail: Disruption and Digital Distribution in Europe’s Online Travel Market

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HAVING FUN WITH ISOCHRONE MAPS

Did you ever visit a city, have a few hours to spare, and wonder where you can get to in your spare time? SilverRail’s journey planning solutions have a feature for just such a situation. The technical name for this feature is an isochrone map. You tell SilverRail your starting point, when you are interested in traveling, and your maximum journey duration. SilverRail will then indicate the locations you can reach by public transit in the allotted time. For instance, let’s say you are at Times Square in New York City and want to know where you can get to within an hour. Our journey planner returns a map like the following:

This map shows all the places you can get to within that hour of travel via walking, public transit, and rail travel. In this particular case, the results include 6,180 separate rail and transit stops, as well as the area around these stops that can be reached by walking.  You can zoom in on the map to see information about the specific stops, or even switch the map to satellite mode to see more details for an area.

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WORLD PREMIERE: A BRAVE NEW WORLD FOR INNOVATION IN RAIL

It was a “World Premiere, Red Carpet” kind of week for SilverRail as we aired the first ever showing of our Future of Rail short film at the Rail Executive’s Rail Industry Day 2015 in London on the 7th July.
Our 5 minute film, which we made in preparation for the Department for Transport’s annual industry gathering, gave a glimpse into the (near) future of just how slick and technologically connected rail travel could look for passengers should today’s existing, proven technology be properly harnessed by the industry.

Focusing on push notifications, sharing and social media and centralised data enhancing booking and ticketing, the video showed the sort of rail travel we all wish we could enjoy every day (and in fact the kind of on-the-move experience we are becoming used to elsewhere – yes we are looking at you air travel).

As I said to the auditorium, which was filled with 450 of the most senior rail industry executives from across the UK, Europe and Asia, while introducing our film, rail suffers from a customer experience problem. The public is quick to knock rail travel, and to do so publically. To survive – let alone thrive – the industry needs to change and adapt. Some of this change may be slow (infrastructure improvement for example), but some can be rapid. Smart adoption of relevant technology is something that can be implemented quickly by those rail operators willing to take the step.

It seems our movie got folk talking! The conference host Alison Phillips, Patrick Bossert, Digital Transformation Director at Network Rail and Jason Hurst, commercial manager at ICWC all referred to the Future of Rail in their presentations, and Mark Ruddy, COO for Transport Catapult even gave me a personal name check: “You’ve heard a lot about innovation in mobility already today, particularly from Will from SilverRail” (thanks Mark!).

Our brave new world of rail travel was built on three core principles:

  • The Consumer perspective must come first! Be the customer. Experience what they experience.
  • Recognise that competition is not just other trains; it is any other transport option out there and, in an increasingly connected world, it is the choice not to travel
  • Smaller is better – we’re not only referring to “mobile first” but rather that innovation should be constant, iterative delivery and refinement.

We think our video showed just what a difference these principles can make.

We would like to thank the Department for Transport for the invitation to present our vision and for screening our film at the Rail Executive Industry Day on 7th July 2015.

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SILVERRAIL POWERS MULTIMODAL TRAVEL BOOKING PLATFORM FOR NORRTÅG

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AN INTERVIEW WITH SILVERRAIL'S FOUNDERS


In our latest employee interview Will Phillipson, Co-Founder & President of SilverRail Technology talks about how he got in to rail and how the magic of Disney influenced his approach to technology.

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TRAVELLER FRICTION

For years, travel managers have faced the balancing act of keeping the travellers of their organisation happy whilst at the same time creating efficiencies in their programs to meet the targets imposed on them by their company. At the recent ITM Conference, Scott Gillespie, Managing Partner at tClara, illustrated how these previously opposing forces could be combined to work in everyone’s favour.

Traditionally, data which has been used to set policies and drive savings related purely to the procurement of travel services, be that a hotel stay, rail ticket, air ticket or vehicle rental. Generally speaking, the lower the quality of service, the lower the cost. It stands to reason therefore that to drive savings, organisations have often tightened their travel policy or downgraded the service that their employees are permitted to experience; many times we have seen economy flights become the norm even in some cases on longer journeys.

Scott used the example of an employee who was asked by her employer to travel in economy between London and Bangalore 3 times over a 1 month period and he asked how long it would be before the requirement to travel became a point of friction between the employee and employer? What cost does this travel or trip friction cause, that is traditionally not measured by travel managers? Some data points exist within businesses which may help to answer that question, such as the level of staff turnover, productivity metrics, cost per hire and performance ratings.

By combining the savings achieved through the program with the costs associated with trip friction, it becomes immediately obvious where the travel policy should sit. Using this hard data allows the travel manager to engage with and educate the key stakeholders within their business.

When managing rail as part of a travel policy, a recent survey we undertook showed that 64% of respondents allowed travel in first class where the journey time was over a certain duration. The most frequent threshold for this upgrade was 3 hours.  Does this threshold need to reduce to mitigate the costs of traveller friction?  Do lower travel costs allow your rail policies to be more generous than air? Can you promote rail over air for a more comfortable, less stressful journey?  We’d like to hear what your answers are to these questions – leave us a comment below.

If you’d like to know more about trip friction and how to mitigate against it, take a look at Scott Gillespie’s full deck of slides by clicking here.

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Amtrak signs three year partnership extension

Amtrak, the US national rail carrier, has extended its partnership with SilverRail for a further three years. Under the agreement, SilverRail, the developer of the first global distribution platform specialising in passenger rail, will continue to distribute tickets for Amtrak’s entire network to customers all over the world. Additionally, it will enable the purchase of eTickets for SilverRail’s customers worldwide – an Amtrak innovation with great value to all, particularly corporate travellers.

The three year agreement will build on the longstanding partnership under which Amtrak benefits from being incorporated into SilverRail’s global, multi-country ticketing platform, SilverCore. The platform integrates operators across multiple countries into one system that can be easily accessed by online travel agents (OTAs), travel management companies and traditional travel agents to book domestic or international rail travel for leisure and business travellers.

“Amtrak carried a record 31.6 million passengers in Fiscal Year 2013, and has broken ten ridership records in the last eleven years. By providing a user friendly platform for our customers nationally and internationally to buy our services, SilverRail has helped us keep pace with this growing demand for rail,” said Matt Hardison, Chief Marketing and Sales Officer at Amtrak.

“We greatly value Amtrak’s continued reliance on SilverRail to connect rail passengers from across the world to their network. This is a fantastic endorsement for SilverRail and our goal to enable simple global booking of rail travel so it can be as easy as booking flights,” said Alain van West, Vice President Business Development at SilverRail.

SilverRail works with rail companies across a number of countries including the USA, UK, Germany, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Canada.

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SILVERRAIL RAISES $40M IN FUNDING TO ADVANCE GLOBAL RAIL TICKETING

We’re extremely excited to announce a new round of additional funding for SilverRail – a $40m Series C investment, led by Mithril Capital, a growth equity investment firm, founded by Peter Thiel and Ajay Royan. We’re looking forward to the coming years while we continue to prove out the thesis that the rail market can be significantly improved through consolidating the technology into a single platform for the distribution of tickets worldwide.

The full press release is below.

SilverRail, the global leader in passenger rail search and distribution technologies, today announced it has raised $40m in Series C funding to accelerate the integration of global rail carriers, continue building next generation search technology, and expand carrier IT solutions. This will include multi-modal journey planning and pricing, booking and reservation management, inventory and seating management, and reporting and analytics.

The Series C investment round was led by Mithril Capital Management, the global technology investment firm founded by Ajay Royan and Peter Thiel, and supported by existing investors – Canaan Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures and Brook Ventures.

“There are two critical global networks that have never worked well together: web and rail,” said Ajay Royan, co-founder and managing general partner at Mithril Capital Management. “Currently, a lot of time, energy, and data are being wasted. By upgrading the interactions among users, operators, and travel agents, SilverRail is making train travel much easier than air.” Royan will join the company’s board of directors.

“Mithril, which focuses on businesses that use technology to solve intractable problems, often in traditional sectors long overdue for innovation, is a perfect fit for SilverRail”, said Aaron Gowell, co-founder and CEO of SilverRail. “This additional funding will allow us to continue to develop market leading solutions for both rail carriers and travel sellers around the world,” he added.

Aaron Gowell and Will Phillipson founded SilverRail in 2009 with the vision of connecting every major rail carrier in the world and transforming search and ticketing. By consolidating content across multiple rail carrier systems, SilverRail has created a global marketplace for sellers and suppliers to connect, a feat historically close to impossible.

Today, the SilverRail platform is connected to markets accounting for $60bn in rail transactions throughout North America and Europe. In the last year alone, SilverRail has added connections in Spain, Italy, and Sweden, and is looking to move into Asia, with the goal of having all major global rail carriers integrated over the coming years.