12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
21 November, London Hilton Metropole
David Vine, managing director - UK SMB at Concur
Another round of rail announcements, another increase to ticket prices. It may be disappointing but, let’s face it, it’s no longer surprising.
The average cost of a train ticket will increase again – this time by 3.5% in line with inflation as passengers shrug off their festive hangovers this coming January. To put this in perspective, the average cost of a ticket has gone up 25% since the coalition has been in power. Despite some controversial infrastructure investments, this latest price increase hardly signals a commitment to rail travel and getting businesses moving in the right direction in general.
While the headlines surrounding the rise have focused on the much debated ‘cost of living crisis’ and the impact on commuters, the wider effect on UK businesses is often ignored. Thousands of companies across the country rely on employee rail travel to conduct important customer meetings, source suppliers and ultimately grow their business. New enterprise hubs are springing up across the country outside the traditional hotspots and businesses rely on trains to get their employees into the boardrooms that matter. Rising ticket prices could ultimately impact their bottom line.
The Department of Transport insists that savings are there if you book in advance, but that is not always possible in a fast-paced market. If, as a manager, you need one of your employees to jump on a train for lunch with a prospective client, you’re going to book that ticket – whatever the cost. The converse effect of creeping price increases may be that businesses once again encourage road travel for important meetings, impacting the coalition’s green policies.
Of course the other option is not to travel at all and instead invest in digital solutions such as video conferencing. The overriding view from business travellers however, is that meeting prospective customers face-to-face is essential for building relationships. In fact, in a recent study 98% of UK sales executives surveyed by Concur said it was ‘vital’. So if we can’t cut out travel all together it’s important that businesses reliant on employee train travel have the systems and tools in place to carefully monitor their travel spend to understand the impact of rising fees on their bottom line.
Rail will continue to be the most convenient method of transport for business travel and despite increases to ticket prices, passenger numbers will likely continue to increase. Businesses may begin to look at alternatives such as cars, taxis or even air travel but let’s hope that the government finally gets back on track in recognising the value businesses place on rail travel.