ADVANTAGE has started negotiations with rail operators amid fears commission payments to business travel agents will fall next year.

Tony Stone, vice-chairman of the focus partnership, a group of 90 Advantage business agents, believes there will be changes in trade payments from May next year, when train companies will be free by law to offer different levels of commission.

A panel of four travel management companies from the partnership is in talks with rail operators discussing the consequences of the potential changes.

Stone, managing director of Business Travel Plus, described it as one of Advantage’s big challenges in business travel next year at the consortium’s annual business travel conference in Amsterdam this week.

He said: “There is a big question mark over UK rail commission structures. The biggest concern is if rail operators are offering different commission levels it will be an extremely competitive market. Commissions won’t go up, that’s for sure. Business travellers do a great deal of rail travel.”

The Association of Train Operating Companies has already announced that December 2007 will see an end to its ticketing system and commission levels will change. Current commissions on rail bookings stand at 7% to 9%.

Stone said: “We need to ensure the end user can see the price in a transparent way.”