The Business Travel Magazine April/May 2019


Rail travel / Spend management

“I find that not a lot of information is

passed on regarding the rail category,” says

Hilti’s Gibson. “TMCs seem to concentrate on

air and hotel bookings and not much is done

to explain how the rail fare structure is

changing,” she adds.

TMCs can analyse rail spend data in any

number of ways, “but it does require the

client to invest time in finding ways to

maximise savings,” says McLeod.

Direct relationships with suppliers is one

way forward, as is a better understanding

with TMCs and educating travellers.

“Use a carrot rather than a stick,” advises

Vince. “For example, say, ‘If we could change

our lead time this is how much we could

save in the business and this is where we

could redistribute it in the business.’ “

Eve Smith, Product Manager, Rail &

Vendors, for FCM Travel Solutions, suggests

a two-pronged attack. “To persuade

travellers or bookers through ‘visual guilt’

into selecting lower fare classes is effective,

as is having the initial discussions with

clients about policy.”

GWR, LNER and Virgin Trains appear most

open to negotiating special deals. “For a

corporate with anytime business, we offer a

deal on the premium cabin,” says David Hill,

Business Development Manager, Corporate

at Virgin Trains. “Other deals are based on a

minimum spend of £200,000 a year on a

specific route.”

Deals are more forthcoming on routes

dominated by air, as is the case with Virgin

Trains to Glasgow. “If anyone has

considerable air spend on that route we

would offer a discount,” says Hill. “There’s

an opportunity for us if a corporate has a

spend of £50,000 on rail but £100,000 on air

and they are prepared to do a modal shift.”

Forget getting a deal on Manchester

services, however, as Virgin has a high

market share, but on Birmingham services

it is more possible.

Elsewhere, Eurostar requires a minimum

annual spend of £130,000 before negotiating

deals on Business Premier as it’s in a strong

position having decimated the air route.

South Western Railway is looking to be


proactive on its main routes of Portsmouth,

Southampton, Basingstoke and Bournemouth,

with on-site educational roadshows

and discounts on a retrospective basis, says

Business and Commercial Director Peter

Williams. “It’ll be a tiered approach based on

travel share switches and percentage growth

in revenue,” he explains. The franchise is

also introducing more advance tickets and

trialling Tap2Go, a discounted fare on sameday,

flexible tickets.

Despite the complex structure of the

industry and the proliferation of fare types,

some corporates are managing rail spend

almost as effectively as hotel and air.

To persuade travellers

through ‘visual guilt’

into selecting lower fare

classes is effective, as is

having the initial discussions

with clients about policy”


• Avoid anytime return tickets: these are the

most expensive ticket type


The best option for a business traveller is an

advance outbound and flexible inbound ticket

• A travel policy should clearly state the

rules on rail – such as advance booking –

and also exceptions

The travel policy should state when rail

should be used over car, for example

The policy should not allow open returns

The policy can allow first class when it is

the cheaper option over standard or

advance fares


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