It should be easier to book rail tickets across Europe – We’re on the case

Published: Oct 5, 2021 by Patrick Heuget

There are so many reasons to take the train across Europe: you can enjoy the scenery, experience your own personal version of the Before Sunset trilogy, and reduce carbon emissions in the process. Why not, right?

Well in some cases, it turns out the answer to that question is a tricky technical issue: it’s surprisingly difficult for travel agents to sell pan-European rail tickets. It should be simple, but it’s not, because each country has their own way of doing things. There are no common “booking classes”, station codes may differ from one rail operator to another, there are no standard booking flows, and generally no standardization. This means that to book a train ticket from Italy to Germany, travel agents have to decode each country’s rail “language” to make sure their traveler gets the same experience throughout their journey. It’s a pain. An unnecessary pain. And it’s about time we fixed it.

That’s why Amadeus is working with rail companies, distributors, and rail IT providers (like Sqills, Turnit and Bileto) to deliver a standard that meets all parties’ needs and expectations, while also contributing to the European Union’s objective of simplifying rail distribution and creating an open rail market in the region. Together, with the Union of International Railways, we’re creating a new Open Sales and Distribution Model (OSDM) for the rail industry.

This is actually a pretty big deal. The OSDM is a new European-wide industry standard for ticket sales, reservations and price distribution, a project jointly managed by The Union of International Railways (UIC), railway companies, ticket vendors involved in EU travel technology, and the European travel agents’ and tour operators’ association (ECTAA). This is a massive project with all key players at the helm, working together to make rail bookings easier for everyone. The OSDM is the result of fusion of two previous models – FSM (Full Service Model) and nTM (new Tariff Model) – to make it easier to buy tickets from different rail companies across Europe.

The OSDM specifications are available since December 2020 and UIC’s objective is for OSDM to be adopted by railway partners and ticket vendors as soon as possible, to make the standard a reality.

In a nutshell, this new rail platform will be one of the first steps toward achieving the vision of providing seamless train sales and after-sales processes, supporting an increased role for rail travel in the 21st century.

Europeans travelers are all too familiar of the challenges of booking pan-European rail tickets, but with OSDM – this process will become much easier. The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), which supports investments in key projects in transport, digital and energy infrastructure areas, has already demonstrated its commitment to rail by investing €15.7 billion of its €22.4 billion transport budget into rail between 2014-2020. This looks set to continue with CEF allocating €33.71 billion to be invested between 2021-2027, with €25.81 billion allocated to the transport sector where a major focus will be on the continued development of the trans-European transport networks (TEN-T). Also consider that rail passenger transportation in the EU has grown 3.4% between 2013 and 2019, and the EU named 2021 the European Year of Rail to promote the most sustainable, innovative and safest transport mode. Rail travel plays a key role in the EU target to cut greenhouse gas emissions with the aim to double High-Speed Traffic by 2030.

There is no doubt that the new OSDM can help the EU meet this goal. That’s why Amadeus is committed to working with the European Commission and all key stakeholders involved in rail and the travel industries to create a more efficient pan-European rail network and distribution system.

Because if there’s anything the world needs, it’s more love stories started on the train, and less carbon emissions. If we need to deal with some tricky technical issues to get there, it will be worth the effort.