This is the 4th article on digital innovation of our ‘EU to improve Public Transport’ articles. Our first three articles discuss technical development, connectivity and affordability of the railway system.
Mobility has increased immensely over the past few decades. Ask any person around you how much of the world they have seen, and you will get completely different answers compared to twenty years ago. The world has become smaller and increasingly connected, allowing us to travel more, yet also have a larger footprint as we go around. Our means of mobility have evolved parallel to our new norms of traveling. Yet, how come that with the increase of travel, public transport has gained slower adoption compared to car usage?
The proportion of train and bus usage compared to total transportation has seen a decline of 1,2% over the past twenty years. Although this doesn’t necessarily imply a decrease in the use of public transport overall, it does tell us that the use of other modes has gained larger traction throughout time. And this poses a problem if we want to keep being mobile, without harming our planet.
In order to tackle this, last December, the European Commission adopted four different proposals to modernise and improve the EU’s transportation system. These proposals focus on aspects such as high-speed railway connections, increase in transhipment terminals, and sustainable urban mobility. So what are the proposed actions the European Commission will take, and what else is needed to change mobility behaviour towards a more sustainable norm? Here are some of our thoughts on four key pillars for development of the public transportation system: technological capabilities, economic policy, connectivity, and digital innovation.
The final aspect to address is digital innovation. As part of their proposal, the European commission aims to have a multimodal legislative proposal ready this year in order to stimulate multimodal ticketing. They comment on wanting to help passengers find the best tickets at competitive price levels. According to their proposal, this should go hand in hand with better management of timetabling and capacity to enhance fast and frequent international rail travel.
Opening up the system
Especially on the part of digital innovation, there is a lot already done by the industry itself, which can be leveraged by the European Commission. Many new entrants are now offering mobile-first solutions to consumers for a smoother travel experience. However, still policy and regulations sometimes slow down this innovation process due to the closedness of the public transport industry. In order to open up the system, adequate policy is needed so that players are encouraged to collaborate and create new value for the end-user.
When different parties in the industry network can bring together their innovative services, it becomes easier for users to adopt these. Services such as easy access to tickets, flexible booking schemes, and real-time planning must be combined so that consumers switch more easily to green ways of travelling.
We at Tranzer for example, aggregate many different domestic and cross-border train tickets and offer full transparency on different prices. Our solution offers planning, booking, and paying within one app. This can be any consumer app that is connected to our platform. This way, it’s extremely convenient for consumers to open their favourite app and arrange all their travel needs at once.
Solutions like these show how digital innovation is a critical part in engaging citizens into sustainable travel options. Together with our industry colleagues and partners, we are working towards a digitized and unified sector, making train travel more appealing and thus boosting adoption rates. It is key for national governments to take a thorough look on what is already happening in their private sectors, and how they can support the expansion and development of these services, rather than starting from scratch themselves.
Our view is that when technical capabilities improve, connectivity increases, affordability is ensured, and digital services are brought to the market, European citizens will adopt sustainable travel options far faster than they do today. Therefore policy measures as discussed in our four articles on the European Commission’s proposals are key, but only together with the acknowledgement of industry innovations (both from incumbents and new entrants).