Rail alliance to compete with airlines

2nd July 2007, Comments 0 comments

2 July 2007, BRUSSELS (AP) - London to Frankfurt by train? It's possible, it can be as fast and as easy as flying and it's far better for the environment, a group of European high-speed rail companies claimed Monday.

2 July 2007

BRUSSELS (AP) - London to Frankfurt by train? It's possible, it can be as fast and as easy as flying and it's far better for the environment, a group of European high-speed rail companies claimed Monday.

Eurostar, Germany's Deutsche Bahn AG and France's SNCF joined Dutch, Austrian, Swiss and Belgian train companies to form a rail alliance, Railteam, that aims to make international train bookings far easier and simpler.

They want to attract at least 25 million travellers by 2010 - 10 million more than now - taking a 5 percent chunk out of the short-haul airline market by promoting four-hour business trips and up to six-hour leisure journeys across western Europe.

They said rail travel can and will compete with low-fare airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet that have revolutionised European travel by encouraging people to fly more often and take weekend trips away.

Lower-stress, lower carbon emission rail journeys are already attracting people away from airlines, they claim, after extra security checks lengthened lines at airports.

Eurostar, which runs trains from London to Paris and Brussels, said it already saw a 39 percent jump in sales of tickets that connect its services to French high-speed services that bring travellers to the Mediterranean and the Alps.

It said more corporate clients have been asking them to compare the carbon footprint of train travel and have calculated that their trains, on average, release 10 times less CO2 than flying. Eurostar is also aiming to make its trains carbon neutral, offsetting emissions that it can't reduce.

The western European high-speed rail network already links 100 cities and 120 million people in the region but many travellers are unaware that they can travel abroad by train - and many are unable to find information on rail links, prices and bookings outside their own country.

Railteam aims to change that - but slowly. From 2009, it plans to offer point-to-point tickets that could be bought over the Internet. Timetables will be sent by text message. If travellers miss a connection, their tickets will let them take the next available train.

Changing the ticket distribution system will cost EUR 30 million, they said.

Business travellers will get many of the trappings of air travel: business lounges and eventually "trainmile" points for frequent travel.

[Copyright AP 2007]

Subject: Belgian news, Dutch news, European news

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