Strategic Meetings Summit London, 26 September,
September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
This week's Big Interview is with Oliver Ueck, who took over as director of Deutsche Bahn (DB) UK in July 2004 having joined as sales and marketing manager in 2000. He has just moved back ” in March - to Hamburg, to work as head of marketing co-operation between Deutsche Bahn and Danish Railways.
International connections will be liberalised in 2010 - do you expect fierce opposition as an incumbent and will you provide competition for others?
DB is already working together with several other European railway companies as part of the Railteam alliance, with the aim to provide a pan-European high-speed rail network. There may be other companies who will have a go, but I do not expect a sudden rush of new operators or services in 2010.
What about operating cross-channel to St Pancras?
Currently, DB has no plans to offer direct ICE [Inter City Express] connections from Germany to London . Nevertheless, the route to London is a very attractive one and will certainly play a role in the future, as infrastructure projects in both England and Belgium have the aim to further reduce journey times.
It is DB”s goal, together with Eurostar - and as part of the Railteam alliance - to increase the market share of rail travel on routes linking the UK and the Continent.
Do you think there can and should be more high speed links across the UK?
High-speed rail travel can be one of the answers to the current challenges for transport in the UK. However, I am not in a position to comment on the economic aspects of a HighSpeed2 project.
DB bought Laing and now operates large-scale passenger transport outside Germany - what is DB's overall strategy? Will you expand further in UK, if so where?
DB's strategy is to grow internationally, particularly as the regional rail market in Germany has been liberalised. In the UK, our key aim is to continue the outstanding performance of Chiltern Railways, continue the improvements which have begun on London Overground and progress and develop the WSMR [Wrexham to London Marylebone] service.
Although DB wants to grow in the UK market, it's currently too early to discuss any decisions on bidding for future franchises.
It's a privatised system in the UK ” for an operator, how does it compare to the State industry in Germany?
The major difference is the structure of the privatised railway industry. However, the rules of a market economy apply to DB as to any other business, even though DB's shares are still held by the German State. There are currently more than 300 competitors of DB running trains on the German rail network, which means we already have to face competition.
Are you seeing more corporate travellers on services? If so, is it because of new company policies?
Business travellers are an important customer group for DB. People enjoy the hassle-free travel from city centre to city centre on modern and fast trains, while at the same time being able to work or enjoy a good meal.
How does Europe compare with the UK for uptake of train travel for business trips?
There is not much difference between British business travellers and their Continental counterparts. Faster connections, good and reliable services and good value for money make rail travel a real alternative to road and air travel.
How efficient is rail for business travel?
People can definitely make better use of their travel time by using our trains as their office. Enhanced mobile phone reception and Wi-Fi on many of our routes and in our DB Lounges at major stations are just some of the services which make rail travel even more attractive.
Are there any issues with booking rail through GDS, and TMCs?
DB is currently translating its travel portal for business customers into English. Companies registered for the BahnCorporate programme can book and issue their tickets online via the corporate portal [26% of the registered business customers used this method in 2005].
They then receive a discount of between 3% and 8%, depending on their annual turnover with DB (minimum turnover Euro3,000). Discounted tickets can also be bought from DB agencies or from ticket machines, if the traveller knows the company's customer number.
What services helpful to business travellers do you offer?
Touch & Travel technology is currently being tested in and around Berlin and on the ICE route to Hannover. People can use their mobile phone to touch in and out. The journey is charged on their mobile phone bill.
Since 24 August 2006, mobile phone displays can also function as a valid train ticket ["Handy-Ticket"]. By registering on Deutsche Bahn's travel website it is possible to book up to 10 minutes before the train departs. The required ticket is simply transferred via MMS to the mobile phone.
Since as early as August 2004 it has also been possible for customers to reserve a seat via their mobile phones.
How does the future look for European rail? Does the environmental issue play into rail's hands?
Many of our customers claim that it is an important aspect of their decision to travel by rail. As rail travel is generally an ecologically friendly method of transport, railway companies do benefit from the recent discussion about climate change.
What about the issue of compensation to passengers for delayed or bad service?
DB introduced its customer Charta four years ago, which entitles customers to compensation and ticket refunds in the case of a delay. In the Charta, DB even goes beyond the statutory obligation it has to its customers.