by Martin Cowen in Vienna
Amadeus is confident that UK inventory will be integrated into Total Rail, the product allows travel agents to book rail as easily as air, later this year.
Total Rail launched in 2011 and Amadeus has managed to sign up a number of rail operators across Europe. These include Deutsche Bahn, SNCF, Trenitalia and (Sweden's) SJ.
Agents signed up to Total Rail can book not only high-speed services but also local services, with bookings fully integrated into the Amadeus PNR and mid- and back-office systems.
However, the UK remains a gap in its content. Thomas Drexler, Director, Rail Travel and Ground Travel, said: "We are in discussions both on technical and commercial aspects as the UK market is a complex one compared to mainland Europe.
We will certainly communicate a solution for the UK market later this year".
He added: "Agents in mainland Europe want to be able to book UK rail content, with a lot of that interest being driven by travel management companies and corporations."
Amadeus is looking at "whether we go direct to the train companies by finding a technical solution to connect with [the train industry's centralised fares and availability database run by] ATOC or go for connectivity with a third party such as thetrainline."
The only exception to the UK blackout are Eurostar services to and from London St Pancras.
In contrast, European rail operators are "opening up their distribution and want to be fully integrated into the travel ecosystem," Drexler said.
Amadeus is also looking at becoming an IT provider for the rail industry, as well as a distribution partner, in the same way as its relationship with the airline industry has changed over the past few year.
"Railways are like the airlines were ten or fifteen years ago," he said, "The initial reluctance to outsource their IT is changing because railways are seeing the value of having an IT partner which can evolve, develop and maintain their IT, allowing them to concentrate on their core business of running trains."
One example of how rail companies, in Europe at least, are starting to think like airlines, is special rates for corporates.
Drexler said that Deutsche Bahn negotiates special fares with businesses which are heavy users of, say, the Frankfurt to Munich route. These fares can be integrated into Total Rail and distributed through TMCs or the corporate self-booking tool via Amadeus eTM.
Amadeus' rail platform means that IT costs shift from fixed to variable, and frees up capital expenditure away from IT systems to other areas of the business.
Total Rail is also being developed as a community platform - meaning that all train companies use the same back-end, reducing costs yet further, but giving the train operators autonomy over their front-end, including pricing, availability and yield.
BeNe International is an example of how Amadeus sees the rail landscape developing. BeNe is an independent joint venture which uses Amadeus Total Rail to service the IT and distribution needs of Belgian railway SNCB, Dutch railway NS and Luxembourg's CFL.
Drexler welcomed this move by saying BeNe has "broken the mould".
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