Thomas Ableman
Chiltern Railways

Member Article

Chiltern Railways on business travel

Thomas Ableman, Commercial Director talks about some of the changes within business travel and how the railway are responding to meet the demands of the rising demand to cut costs. He believes it is vital for companies to get a good value service to tighten up their bottom line but at the same time look for options which maximize productivity.

The majority of companies are finding that doing business in the current economic environment is a challenge. Dealing with rising costs, greater competition and a demand from customers to keep prices low can make improving the bottom line a struggle. However, smart businesses are cutting costs without affecting quality by finding the right ways to make changes that not only save money, but actually increase productivity.

In launching our new 90 minute Mainline service between the West Midlands and London last September, we kept the needs of businesses in mind and in response, more and more businesses are choosing to travel on our line and we’ve seen growth of 65 %.

We knew that our reduced journey times would make our line a valuable link for corporate travellers and therefore built the offer in close consultation with businesses. They told us they wanted value for money and to be able to work on the train. What they didn’t want was to pay over the odds for their trip and to have to pay for wi-fi, which is now even classed as a hygiene factor for long distance travel. They wanted clear, simple pricing and guidelines on when they could travel.

These requirements formed the ethos behind Mainline and we created a clear stepped pricing structure of £85 - £50 - £25. We also simplified our travel restrictions, passengers from London for example can travel to Birmingham in the morning and back for a meeting without encountering a single restriction; essentially they can travel on our super off peak ticket for £25. This is an enormous cost saving when compared to an equivalent train from Euston priced at £158. Mainline is made for business travel; it is about creating a comfortable space where you want to and can work. Free Wi-Fi was always part of the spec; we want passengers to be able to use time onboard wisely. They can efficiently use the time to get work done. Of an evening our passengers can use the time to get time consuming tasks like ordering the weekly shop out of the way, leaving them more family time once at home.

When launching Mainline we also launched a new “premium economy” product on some of our peak Mainline trains called the Business Zone. It was modelled on similar products in the aviation world and the Business Zone was designed following extensive value-based discussions with the business community.

The results were very interesting with companies wanting an alternative to First Class. Finance Directors were concerned over payment for non-essentials like alcohol and pretzels and the high price tag of First Class, so we addressed this with the Business Zone product.

In addition, since the launch we’ve carried out research of 1025 business travellers, which showed that people travelling for business are far more productive when using the train: *66% of those surveyed who travel by train work most/all of the time and carry out a diverse range of tasks, versus only 21% of those travelling by car, who can only take phone calls. We also found that by providing things like free wi-fi improves the ability to get work done with 74% of all business travellers agreeing with this.

By simply tightening up ‘travelnomics’, businesses can improve performance through increased productivity; delivering a greater return on investment in manpower and ultimately deliver bottom line benefits through greater time and cost efficiency. If you are a business you need to be asking is there an alternative to this that is cheaper and more productive.

We think with our new service that we’ve delivered the perfect mix of value, quality and bottom line benefits. On all of our London to Birmingham services we offer a productive working environment for all our customers with free wi-fi, power points and tables at nearly every seat. With our walk up fare being considerably cheaper than our main competitor, our offer for businesses is now simple business sense.

Businesses will need to continue to make savings in 2012 in order to remain competitive, however they not be considering the gains that can be made by reclaiming lost productivity. A simple change such as choosing a different travel method or route can make a difference and if many of your employees are travelling by car, you could be losing out. Companies can make significant savings simply by looking at their corporate business travel and being savvier with their ‘travelnomics’ and 2012 needs to be the year that they get smart.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Chiltern Railways .

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