News heralds ‘new era in rail booking’

A new trail booking website goes live today in the UK, the developers behind it believing it could help take the proportion of online bookings from just 30% to 70%. – a play on the words relating to the phrase ‘no queues’ – feature two main advances according to the firm: a graphic timetable display and the ability to cancel tickets online.

Quno believes the complexity of rail timetables and fares and the requirement for customers to make a phone call to cancel are major blocks to booking online.

The platform has been built “from the ground up”, Aaron Gowel, chief executive of SilverRail Technologies, said and has been designed to mimic existing flight booking sites.

He said the proportion of online bookings for travel products tend to be almost identical in the US and the UK except for rail, which currently stands at 30% in the UK compared to 70% in the US.

“Rail in the US is booked at exactly the same rate online as air because it is inherently a commodity product. There is pent up demand in the UK.”

The UK market for rail is worth around £6 billion, and in Europe £55 billion, whereas the US is a much smaller market worth around $1 billion.

Gowel expects most OTAs to use a white label version of the system and to allow them to have a ‘rail’ tab on their websites as demand for rail surges due to the huge planned investment in high speed projects in Europe.

“We have launched our own consumer brand partly because the UK market is so unique in that there is not one national supplier. The market is so fragmented it’s a really good consumer direct opportunity.

“This is very different from anything else in the market place. It was built from the ground up looking at how rail should be sold.

It looks like an airline booking engine and we have taken out a lot of the noise you see in the market place with different pricing codes.”

Quno says it has simplified the vast array of different ticket types by implementing airline-style flexible/non-flexible categories and a lack of data conventions in the sector between different operators.

Further development will see other operators in Europe including SNCB in Belgium, Deutsche Bahn in Germany, SNCF in France and Eurostar added to provide international travel.

In the corporate travel sector American Express is due to start using the platform within weeks and Carlson Wagonlit has stopped development of its own system to switch to the platform through the Reardon self booking tool.

Jeremy Acklam, managing director of Quno, said: “This is a real opportunity because in the UK two out of three people still buy their rail tickets at the station, partly because of the complexity.

“With our timetable tool you can for the first time really visualise the time table with connections, journey times and routes. Very shortly we are going to introduce an online booking cancellation method.”

Users can filter results by journey time and price and Quno guarantees that the best available price at the time of searching will be available on the site.

“It’s all about being intuitive and allowing consumers to select the data that they want to see. You will see on major OTAs in the UK rail tabs by the end of the year.

“From a functionality point of view this is designed to patch straight into the air search or dynamic packaging systems or stand alone tabs on websites.”

It is expected OTAs will start off by using a white label of the Quno site before moving to a second phase API link.

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