“Tourism Potential of Railway Services” (TOPRAIL) is the name of a new project of the UIC Passenger Forum. After the project was kicked off on 19 December 2012 in Madrid, it was now Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail which hosted the first project meeting in Dublin on 7 May 2013.
In his opening address CEO David Franks provided an overview of tourism development in Ireland and the impact of the economic crisis on the country. Thus he underlined the importance of any initiative aiming at helping to bring tourism back to pre-crisis levels and sees a good opportunity for his company to invest in this market. He was seconded by Jim Deegan, Managing Director of Railtours Ireland First Class, a tour operator, who closely works together with Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail and combines regularly scheduled train journeys with sightseeing by coach. The participants had been invited on such a tour the day before and were impressed by its perfect organisation and high standard. Jim said that he was a pioneer with the idea of shuttling tourists from Dublin to the Irish West Coast for a day tour. At that time it was only possible by using trains. However, in the booming years, Ireland invested heavily in motorways, and his business was soon facing fierce competition from many “coach only” operators. He knew he couldn’t beat them in terms of the price, so he emphasised the train journey with on-board catering as an event and ... succeeded. This proved to him and Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail that a train journey with its relatively higher comfort is a plus within a tourism package and will get its target group if it is properly marketed and organised.
This kind of case study and making best practice known among the partners will become an intrinsic part of the TOPRAIL project.
We all manage railway customers, albeit having different approaches. We have a variety of services within our activity, including heritage/museum railways and should find the best way to make them known to a broad public,”
said Carles Casas Esplugas from Ferrocarriles de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC, Spain), who was unanimously elected Chairman for the TOPRAIL project. He thanked David Franks for pointing out the major challenges of the TOPRAIL project which he fully shares:
- Establishing a database of tourism products available in other markets
- Better understanding of the member countries’ tourists (market or segment analysis) who may wish to travel to another member country
- Mutual cooperation to promote our products abroad (advise on promotion and advertising)
- Use of Case Studies for corporate learning
The Federal Passenger Company of Russian Railways (RŽD-FPK) was represented by their Deputy General Director, Andrey Kaliberdin. RŽD-FPK is currently preparing a survey over their customers in tourist and regular trains as well as tour operators in order to gather their feedback and know more about their preferences and decision criteria.
Other participating members were Attica Group (Greece), Chinese Ministry of Transport, DB Autozug (Germany), Fundación Caminos de Hierro (Spain), Japan Railways, PKP Intercity (Poland), Wagon Service Travel (Slovakia), and ZSSK (Slovakia).
Ignacio Barrón, UIC Director Passenger and High Speed thanked Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail for their initiative and active role in the TOPRAIL project. Carles Casas Esplugas invited participants to the 2nd project meeting on 21 and 22 October 2013 in Barcelona.