Why I’m Back & Even More Excited About the Future of Mobility in Europe
Written by Erik Wigers-Larsen
After stepping away from the travel industry over five years ago in pursuit of a new challenge in sustainable construction, I’m very excited to be retracing my steps and rejoining the SilverRail team.
If I’m honest, it feels like I never really left. I was welcomed back with the same warmth and positivity that I felt all those years ago when I joined back in 2009.
For 21 years, SilverRail has collaborated with the rest of the Swedish travel ecosystem to help rail operators and travel agencies transform how they serve customers and run their businesses.
Today, our distribution hub enables over 300 retailers to sell combined travel content easily and cost-effectively from all rail carriers (SJ, Vy Tåg, Vy Buss, MTRX, Tågab, Snälltåget) and Samtrafiken — covering 21 Public Transport Authorities. As we continue on our mission to make rail easy and change the way people move, we’ve helped to build a sustaining travel ecosystem in Sweden that’s ready to be scaled across Europe to build a greener future.
What Brought Me Back to SilverRail?
There is a huge buzz at the moment around the deregulation and liberalisation of European rail to increase competition across the continent. For me, this opens up a world of opportunities that I’m eager to explore.
I really feel that the time for rail is now and SilverRail is the place to be to enjoy front-row seats.
Over the years, SilverRail has been a central player in creating the world’s most advanced collaboration ecosystem within ground transportation. As the rest of Europe flirts with rail market liberalisation, I believe there’s a huge opportunity for SilverRail to share knowledge, experience and technology to accelerate European rail innovation and push towards seamless mobility solutions and intermodal journeys.
Rejoining a team and organisation that has a proven track record and is geared up to drive transformational change across European ground transportation is a thrill.
Where Did I Go?
Before I dive any deeper into the future of SilverRail and where I think that could take us, perhaps I should begin by reflecting on how I got here and what I learnt along the way. Here’s a quick rundown of my journey up to this point.
If we rewind to 2003, I was part of the early years of developing digitised self-booking systems that put the traveller (i.e. the customer) in control of planning and booking their journeys.
In the early 2000s, there were only a few early adopters in the travel space that really saw the potential of self-booking tools. Two decades later, the idea of visiting a travel agency or waiting on hold to book a trip seems prehistoric.
Linkon was a frontrunner in the distribution industry for European rail. No other markets had gathered all content for a single market in one platform — making all content available for travel agencies and other channels.
However, Linkon was still owned by the rail industry which, to a certain extent, limited its development. Something needed to change.
This change came in the form of an acquisition by SilverRail in 2014. Joining the SilverRail family meant Linkon could now develop for a broader audience and make use of global technology and experiences to change the way people move and build a greener planet.
I’ve always been motivated by the idea of disrupting current business models and finding new ways to deliver value. Following my initial eight years at SilverRail, I spent five years running my own companies within the sustainable construction space.
While it might sound like an unexpected deviation from ground transportation, construction is also an industry that all-to-often lacks digital development and is driven by old structures that say “this is what we’ve always done”. I enjoy the challenge of changing that mindset and exploring the ‘art of the possible’.
SilverRail Round Two
Coming back to the rail and distribution industry after five years was remarkably unremarkable. I was amazed to discover how little had changed — the discussions and problems that we were trying to solve were the same, albeit the tools we were using to solve them had advanced by leaps and bounds.
Ground transportation is a slow-moving industry and one that demands the same disruptive mindset that helped me along my entrepreneurial journey. To be part of the change and harness the full potential of SilverRail’s technology, we need to be bold. SilverRail presents a bright future for European ground transportation and, I believe, fosters the right culture, attracts the right people, and builds the right technology to revolutionise the industry.
We already revolutionised one market, let’s do it again for the rest of Europe.
So, the future — what does the future hold for SilverRail and what role will I play?
As Head of Sales, I will be part of an organisation that is a frontrunner in technology within the rail sector. While helping rail carriers understand the benefits of technology and unlock the power of third-party distribution is a daunting task, I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge.
With the current push for rail market liberalisation for European carriers, the distribution landscape is about to change and travellers will have more choices and better services than ever. Over the years SilverRail has developed technology and a platform that has enabled travellers to use multiple carriers with just one ticket (using ‘Through Ticketing’).
As I type, the EU is beginning to explore the role of multimodality, interoperability, cross-border ticketing and data liberalisation. While these are all important pieces of the puzzle to make the sale and distribution of tickets more accessible to travellers, this is nothing new for SilverRail — it’s part of our DNA.
Together with Swedish rail carriers and Samtrafiken, SilverRail has developed a suite of solutions for dynamic pricing, multi-modal timetable search, interoperability, through-ticketing, sales and, distribution of international fares. All of this was done while also making our API available to those who want to sell tickets to travellers. This is a truly unique approach and it’s only now that the rest of Europe is catching onto the idea and exploring the scalable potential of our work in Sweden.
The Road Ahead for European Rail
As global awareness of the climate threat grows, more and more travellers want to make conscious choices and minimise their carbon footprints. Specifically, with the environmental benefits of rail driving a surge in demand, it’s more important than ever to seamlessly connect carriers with travel agencies.
In response to this demand, SilverRail has built well oiled solutions for both the rail carriers as well as travel agencies large and small. We have both offline products such as Linkonline, which helps travel agents deliver effective sales and aftersales experiences and online API products, all designed to encourage more people to take the train.
In addition, the introduction of The Open Sales and Distribution Model (OSDM) is a welcome change to the European rail landscape — providing a long-overdue set of standards in the rail distribution industry that has been one of the major obstacles for effective integrations between market players.
While European rail is taking some exciting steps forward, there remains a long road ahead and OSDM is far from being a silver bullet solution. I believe the lack of commercial agreements between market players and protectionism for incumbent rail carriers are far more important problems to solve. Having attended multiple rail and environmental conferences over the past few months, there is lots of talk about the environment, technology, standards, market competition and market liberalisation.
None of these events or their participants are talking about the commercial agreements between all parties that need to be in place for the technology to be meaningful. SilverRail is addressing this by showcasing successful examples from the Swedish market where 21 years of collaboration with Samtrafiken has helped rail operators and travel agencies transform how they serve customers and run their businesses.
Now Is the Time for Rail
Change has been slow in the rail sector but things are about to seriously ramp up.
As SilverRail continues to develop state-of-the-art technologies that connect carriers with sales channels and more travellers value the environmental benefits of rail, I’m extremely excited to be part of a team that is making rail easy, changing the way people move, and helping to build a greener planet.
We’re always looking for talented people who share our vision for the future of travel. We’re also a remote and flexible employer.