Ollie Woodmansee, sales director, Avis Budget UK
Hot on the heels of the January 2012 price hike, the Government has just publicised its plans to increase rail fares by up to 11.2 per cent, around double the rate of inflation, and potentially costing commuters, and business travellers alike, hundreds of pounds in additional fares. In fact, the increase will cost some rail users over 20 per cent of their annual salary.
Despite increasing opposition to the proposal, the increase will come into effect as of January 2013 and as a result, many business organisations, are coming to the conclusion that rail travel is becoming too expensive as a viable means of business transportation.
The current economic climate has put more pressure on businesses than ever before to tighten belts and avoid any unnecessary or avoidable expenses. Moving between offices, visiting customers, attending meetings - business travel is an essential part of any organisations and the cost is unavoidable. Paying more than you need to, however, is not.
For an increasing number of journeys, car hire is a significantly cheaper option to catching the train, and as such we anticipate a significant swing to car travel. However, cost is not the only factor driving this shift. Flexibility and comfort are other major considerations for business travellers.
With the high number of passengers using the train, packed and overcrowded carriages are increasingly becoming the norm. Using a car is a far more comfortable alternative mode of transport - a traveller can listen to his or her own music (not from the headphones of one’s neighbour), or make a telephone call without being shushed, or interrupted by a tunnel. Also, instead of getting squeezed into an overcrowded carriage and forced to stand, they can enjoy their own, guaranteed seat.
Car hire is also indisputably more flexible than rail travel, leaving business men and women in complete control of their journey, able to travel door to door and set off at their own leisure at a time that is convenient to them, not the rail company’s – a more appealing option than standing on a cold or wet station platform.
Car hire also supports productivity – for a start, with the introduction of services such as Avis Connect, customers can now access the internet using Wi-fi technology, wherever or whenever they want during their journey. With this service, up to four passengers can access the internet at the same time, which means business as usual as colleagues can access e-mails, documents and the Web whilst away from the office. This will be a key feature for all business organisations, big and small, eliminating the inconvenience of poor internet and 3G connections.
As prices increase, business travellers are less likely to put up with all the negative aspects that they may have once been willing to endure. This further increase in rail fares comes at a time when the mindset of business travellers is changing. Financial pressures are forcing organisations to ask whether they are prepared to pay increasingly exorbitant prices for a service that more often than not fails to provide the service they should expect. There is a more cost effective and business efficient alternative to standing on a cold platform, and with the cost of rail tickets spiralling out of control, we’re confident it won’t be long before the rest of the business world finds it.