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Booking rail is now as easy as booking air

Remember the days when your clients would have to wait a minimum of five days after booking a rail trip before receiving their confirmation ticket?

Remember the days when your clients would have to wait a minimum of five days after booking a rail trip before receiving their confirmation ticket?

We imagine the memory is still quite vivid – it was only a little more than a year ago that the rail booking system was so dated it was almost too time consuming for agents to sell.

However, in the last 12 months or so the rail industry has received a big push into the 21st century, and according to Rail Plus CEO James Dunne, is now as easy to sell and book as air.

Speaking to media at a private lunch in Sydney this week, Dunne explained that after some ‘soul searching’ the company realised they needed to deliver better service to agents who are too time poor to work through piles of information about various types of rail bookings.

“We appreciate that agents are working under tight deadlines and the world of rail can be quite tricky.”

James Dunne, Rail Plus CEO Australia & NZ

Rail

“They’re looking at things like why purchase a pass when you can purchase a point-to-point or when is it better to purchase a three country or four country pass? There’s so many options and elements.

“We realised we needed to manage things better and make it easier for agents.”

Dunne continued, saying the company decided make changes to the way rail bookings are processed. A year ago there was a lot of paper and postage, which not only delayed ticketing for travellers, but also meant agents country immediately forward last minute changes to their clients.

That’s when the first change was rolled out – Rail Plus moved to more e-ticketing options and while Dunne admits it wasn’t a ‘revolutionary move’ it was important to the sector because it made selling rail tickets as easy as selling domestic.

Rail Plus

Once e-ticketing rolled out, Rail Plus progressed with the introduction of various payment options in April. For example, agents considering Eurostar for their clients can make pay a fare and receive the ticket instantly or they can place it on a ticketing deadline, giving clients time to consider the itinerary before booking.

Dunne said the company then started looking into agent requests and one that stood out was more information on demand. This lead to the launch of a ‘live chat’ messaging system that runs 12 hours a day from 7.00am to 7.00pm. Utilising both the company’s Tasman offices, the New Zealand team open the chat early in the morning and the Aus team closes it at the end of the day.

Another important requests from agents was the ability to copy and paste invoice details into their back office systems, which saves administration time.

And there’s education and updates. Recognising that rail ‘isn’t really visible’ to agents, Rail Plus launched a series of webinars on its website.

Rail Plus 2

The eight seven-minute videos (another three will roll out soon) cover the benefits of selling various tickets; the structure of various passes; how to navigate the website and more.

Dunne said it’s important for travel agents to have easily accessible rail information.

“The webinars were recently refreshed and we have a couple of webinars coming out for Rocky Mountaineer and Canada in the next fortnight.”

James Dunne, Rail Plus CEO Australia & NZ

“For a travel agency that’s very important because there can be a high level of turnover and new agents coming into the industry. They’ll probably know the standard airfare and GDS applications but the world of rail isn’t really visible to them.”

Are you finding it easier to sell rail these days?