Christopher Irwin, who is also the co-chair of the Sector Stakeholders’ Group that advises the intergovernmental Platform on Cross-Border Passenger Rail, was amongst those who gave a presentation at the Platform’s Workshop in London in April on ticketing and related matters. His presentation emphasised the importance of focusing on defining what was required of a modernised ticketing system – the desired outcomes – rather than getting caught up in potentially time-consuming and relatively obscure but passionately argued debates about the detail of the various technical system options involved in their delivery.

He cited the Brussels Declaration of the Belgian Presidency of earlier in the month on the future of European mobility, highlighting its excellent statement of the outcomes that all involved should be working towards. In making the modal shift towards rail transport a central objective of European mobility policy, the Presidency called for the EU “To ensure, through a new legislative proposal, that a passenger can easily compare, book and pay for their door-to-door train journey in a trans-European perspective, while being assured of the continuity of their journey, regardless of whether one or several rail companies are involved”.

Irwin argued that this could be delivered given clear political will on the part of the Council, the Commission and the Parliament and, most importantly, the senior leaders of the sector. The alternative is dire. Unless rail can be made very much more attractive to its users and potential users it will miss the current opportunity to place itself at the heart of a sustainable European mobility system. Air travel is already growing much faster than rail and making big steps to make itself greener. One of the underlying competitive weaknesses of rail is the relative difficulty that potential passengers have in getting cross-border tickets. ING Research shows that the drop-out rate for international rail trip bookings in Europe is ten times higher than for booking a flight (ING Research).

Christopher Irwin’s presentation can be viewed here.