Travelling by rail through Europe is set to become a whole lot easier, thanks to a new EU ruling standardising ticket and timetabling systems. The new rules will mean that booking European train tickets will soon be as easy as booking plane journeys. This will mean that customers booking trains to Europe from London and other UK destinations will have more transparency on prices and services.
The changes mean that:
• timetable and fares data will be standardised across rail operators
• rail operators must make their timetables available publicly
• fares information must be available to agreed partners
In 2012, the EU will also require all railway companies and ticket vendors to be standardise their IT systems so they can exchange data seamlessly. This will let their data be exchanged and used by all rail operators throughout Europe.
Seamless planning and ticketing
European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, said: “If we are serious about getting people onto rail, and particularly about having rail compete with air travel over middle distances then we need to offer rail passengers the seamless planning and ticketing offers that match the airlines.”
Currently rail passengers face a jumble of systems throughout the EU’s 27 member states, making planning cross-Europe rail journey planning overly complicated. This improvement will be of great help to those travellers buying InterRail tickets as it’s currently difficult to plan your trip, particularly if visiting multiple countries. The airline industry has long been able to use a common central reservations system, making flight planning and ticket easily arranged.
Making pan European rail planning a reality
“We want to make it as easy, in the future, to book a rail ticket from Barcelona to Brussels or Berlin to Bratislava as it is to book a corresponding flight,” added Kallas. “Making common timetabling and fare information available to operators is a significant first step, but it is just the start of a much bigger push to make pan European rail planning and ticketing a reality.”
Welcome boost for European rail travel
The new measures are good for the environment and good for travellers, and look set to revolutionise European rail planning and ticketing. It’s hoped that a new generation of journey planning and ticketing tools will appear on the market very soon, making a welcome boost for eco friendly rail travel.
Until the new measures come into force, the easiest way to book rail travel around Europe is to let Rail Europe or SNCB B-Europe do the hard work for you. InterRail tickets are also a great value way of getting round Europe by train, as they now have flexible durations and can be booked for the whole of Europe or country-by-country.
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Booking train travel with Rail Europe is particularly convenient, as Rail Europe aggregates ticket information from all the continent’s major rail networks. Rail Europe is actually run and owned by several of the European train operators, so you know you’re getting accurate information straight from the horse’s mouth.