Online, but grounded: Developments in bus and rail travel
Commentators: Marc Hofmann (CheckMyBus), Remco Bruins (Eurail.com), Polina Raygorodskaya (Wanderu) spoke at this important plenary of WYSTC 2016, with Kerry Tate (Topdeck Travel) moderating.
When a traveller wants to get from A to B cost-effectively and they are looking for that grounded experience, by logic they will turn to bus and train transport. It has to be said that for a variety of reasons, the booking/ticketing of said transport has remained largely offline. However, innovation and change is coming to this late starting sector and evolution is turning into a revolution with a host of changes coming from existing or new players.
All of the said commentators are booking agents for bus and/or rail transport, the key difference is Eurail are owned by 32 European train companies and are what one could call an ‘existing’ operator with the legacy and systems associated wth large companies.
While CheckMyBus and Wanderu are newbies, online and innovators with less or no legacy concerns. What was common is that they all suggest, with suspected accuracy, that the ground transport sector is ripe for change in its ticketing processes. If flights can do it, so can bus and train trips right?
Polina pointed out that the main concern of most bus operators in the US is not selling tickets, but actually the lack of new drivers and fast approaching retirement age of the current ones. Well guess what Polina, change is coming. OTTO was bought by Uber for $680 million only last month and driverless trucks on our roads are just around the corner. Can driverless buses be too far away? One can also now speculate that the lack of young bus drivers is actually a good thing. Remco chimed in that we already have driverless trains.
Of course the big change for those in the ground transport sector is the online ticketing and ability to book multiple trips at one time. Now with online booking competing companies can be packaged by the same client in the same booking process, a seamless and faster experience. This can only be a good thing. But, some pain will be endured along the way.