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USA: Instead of building a rail link to the airport San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is considering installing a dedicated lane for autonomous vehicles only.

“I agree that light rail should have gone to the airport when that line was built 26 years ago. Now we face a different, and much more expensive, challenge: retrofitting a line that would cost $800 million or more, at a time when we’ve got many other transit projects (BART, Caltrain electrification, Diridon Station, bus rapid transit, and Eastridge light rail). That’s why I’m working with our Department of Transportation (DoT) team to explore some less costly alternatives, including an autonomous-only lane between Diridon and the airport,” the Mayor said answering a letter sent to him from one of the San Jose citizens.

Liccardo said he is particularly interested in the route along Coleman from the airport to Diridon.

“It makes sense for air travelers looking for a quick, inexpensive way to get to various transit options, and it would help support San Jose as Silicon Valley’s urban center,” the Mayor added.

Jim Ortbal, Director of the DoT said that the department is preparing for a Request for Information that is targeted for release in June, asking companies in the autonomous vehicles industry to give their ideas for testing and eventually implementing the system in San Jose.

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INDONESIA: Construction has started on a 13.5km rail link connecting Adi Sumarmo International Airport and Central Java from Surakarta (also known as Solo).

The line will be built by a consortium of Indonesian Railways (KAI), PT Angkasa Pura I, and PT Pembanunan Perumahan.

The line will run on 3.5km of existing rail tracks and 10km newly built tracks. Journey time from the airport to the city centre will take 15 minutes.

The airport, which currently handles 1.5 million passengers per year, is also being doubled in size. The work on the airport and the rail link due to be completed in 2018.

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UK: Transport Minister Andrew Jones has confirmed a £173.5 million transport funding package for Leeds, which includes new integrated bus corridors, improved park and ride facilities and better wayfinding. 

The package also allows Leeds to develop proposals for local rail improvements, including an airport parkway station, subject to wider rail industry consultation.

With the support the DfT has now given, Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) will now develop a range of improvements including the proposals for a new parkway station on the Leeds to Harrogate line to serve Leeds Bradford Airport and also act as a park and ride in both directions.

The Department for Transport forecasts usage of Leeds Bradford Airport could more than double to 7.1m passengers a year by 2030 rising to over nine million by 2050. Along with improved access by rail, Leeds City Council is also currently considering three options for enhanced road access to the airport with an update to be released shortly.

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NORWAY: Saturday 22nd April marked the official opening day of the Bybanen light rail line extension to Bergen Airport.

“Flesland is the most important gateway to the rest of the country and the world and the opening of the rail line today marks the completion of the Bybanen extension to the South,” City Council representative Anna Elisa Tryti said.

The journey from city centre to the airport takes 45 minutes to complete. The new station at the airport is located outside the New Terminal, which is due to open on August 17. The existing terminal is a 3-5 minute walk from the station.

The project has created 13,000 jobs and improved access to a community of 9,000 homes.

“We have been looking forward to this day, it is an important milestone that Bergen citizens and visitors can now take the Bybanen all the way to the airport. This will be a very affordable way to and from the airport. Besides, the city rail is very punctual, which is an important factor when you are trying to catch a flight. However, for us in Skyss, it is also important to emphasize that the Bybanen is not just an airport train, but is designed for all of those who travel on different parts of the route between Bergen Park and Bergen Airport,” Skyss Sales and Marketing Manager Hanne Alver Krum said.

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ITALY: A new people mover connecting Galleo Galilei Airport with Pisa Central railway station started operations on the 1.8km route.

The journey is 5 min long with an intermediate stop at San Giusto/Aurelia with nearly 1,300 spaces at the two car parks. Trains run between 6am and midnight with peak frequencies of 5 min.

A single ticket costs EUR 2.70.

The line was built by Condotte Spa, its subsidiary Inso, and Leitner and is operated by a concession-holding company Pisamover S.p.A., which is also responsible for the management of the transport service and the two car parks.

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EVENTS: The Global AirRail Alliance (GARA), an organization promoting rail access to airports, and the Airport Regions Conference (ARC), an association of regional and local authorities across Europe with an international airport situated within or near its territory, have partnered to bring the 8th Global AirRail Conference and Awards to Brussels on 13-14th November 2017.

The annual Global AirRail Conference and Awards brings air-rail professionals from all over the world to discuss the passenger intermodality segment between air and rail including the physical infrastructure integration, innovations in travel booking and planning, and improving passenger experience.

“I am very happy to announce the partnership with ARC as the association brings together a wide range of expertise from air transport as well as local and regional governments,” Director of GARA Milda Manomaityte said.

“At this year’s event, I would like to focus the debate on the challenges the local and national governments will be facing with the arrival of new mobility services, implementing new legislations and working with airports to ensure seamless integration of different transportation modes to improve employee access and passenger experience.”

“I am particularly interested to hear the discussions on how this will impact rail access to airports, what measures rail operators will have to take to compete with new mobility providers and what partnerships can be formed to stimulate business growth,” Milda added.

Each year ARC explors two or three specific topics, ranging from training and employment gaps, to ultrafine particles, territorial marketing, or the noise issues. However, surface access to airports has been a constant concern for local and regional authorities and this year ARC is dedicating the discussions to airport access issues, focusing on economic, social and environmental impacts on airport regions.

“I am happy to welcome the global air-rail community to Brussels and look forward to creating links with the local and regional policy makers,” Secretary General for the Airport Regions Conference, Léa Bodossian said.

The Global AirRail Conference sessions will look at best practices in planning, building and operating rail links to airports, best marketing campaigns to ensure growth, innovations in customer experience at airports and air-rail links, as well as funding, policy and stakeholder engagement challenges.

The event will also host the annual Global AirRail Awards, recognizing the effort, best practices and results of the global air-rail community. The entries for the awards will open on 1st of June 2017 and close on 1st of October 2017. The winners will be announced during the awards ceremony in Brussels on 14th of November 2017.

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UK: The launch of Jet2.com anf Jet2holidays at Stansted Airport means that Stansted Express customers can now enjoy even greater choice and value with 21 destinations on offer.

To mark the launch, the Jet2 team greeted rail passengers arriving at Stansted Airport rail station on 30th March with giveaways such as beach balls, sunglasses, Frisbee, lip balms, a mini brochure and £60 ‘Rain Cheque’ voucher to promote the new holiday opportunities.

London Stansted Airport becomes Jet2.com and Jet2holidays’ ninth UK airport base and their first in the South of England. They will offer 21 European leisure destinations, which are on sale now – Lanzarote, Malaga, Alicante, Dubrovnik, Faro, Madeira, Fuerteventura, Girona, Crete (Heraklion), Ibiza, Kos, Larnaca, Gran Canaria, Menorca, Paphos, Majorca, Pula, Reus, Rhodes, Tenerife and Zante – giving holidaymakers across North & East London and the East of England more choice and value.

The first flights from London Stansted Airport took off on Thursday 30 March 2017 to Alicante, Faro, Majorca and Lanzarote.

Stansted Express’s Head of Commercial Development, Eleni Jordan, commented, “We look forward to welcoming Jet2.com and Jet2holidays passengers onto our services and look forward to working with Jet2 over the coming months to provide a seamless journey for our passengers from train to plane. As the fastest and most comfortable way to travel to and from the airport, with trains every 15 minutes and low advance fares from just £7 one way, recent official figures have shown that the Stansted Express is the most popular form of transport, above the coach or car.”

Stansted Express as the fastest gateway to Stansted Airport, fares now start from just £7 per person each way when booked in advance or when four people make a return journey together. Standard single fares are now only £16.60, or £28 return between London Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport.

The new fares put Stansted Express amongst the cheapest Stansted airport transport providers, while retaining a high quality service which includes fully flexible travel on any train on date of travel (and return tickets are valid for up to one month), no hidden fees, unlimited baggage allowance and free wifi.

Trains run every 15 minutes providing the fastest link between central London (47 minutes), Tottenham Hale (36 minutes) and Stansted Airport and the train station at the airport is directly under the airport terminal, just a 2-minute walk to check-in.

Best prices are always online at www.stanstedexpress.com, where there are a range of other services available such as discounted hotels, theatre and attractions booking service, for added convenience and value.

Commenting on Jet2’s launch at the airport, Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays said yesterday: “We have got off to a flying start in every sense at London Stansted Airport. Customers in the region have been hearing all about Jet2.com and Jet2holidays’ family friendly ethos, great value package holidays and award-winning customer service, and today they finally get to experience all of that.”

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GERMANY: Amadeus and Distribusion Technologies signed a partnership agreement, bringing over 300 airport bus transfer and intercity bus operators in 2,500 destinations to Amadeus travel seller network.

A single gateway to all this content means travel sellers can easily broaden their offer, attract new types of customers and drive revenues, all while forgetting about costly one-to-one setup and commercial relationships.

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With content, search, booking, payment, ticketing and settlement capabilities covered, travel agencies can focus on adapting this new offer to travellers, and in turn, bus companies will be more visible to new customers in new channels, ultimately driving sales growth. Initially, Amadeus travel sellers in central, eastern and southern Europe will be able to access Distribusion bus content with more across the world expected to join soon.

Nearly one billion passengers per year use scheduled ground transport to get to and from the airport – made up primarily by 430 million passengers in Europe and 504 million in Asia-Pacific.

According to Distribusion, most of these bookings are made independently from the flight, directly with the bus and rail transport provider, which adds a layer of inconvenience for passengers when planning their journey.

“Travelling by bus is an attractive choice for many, but could be for many more. Bus operators now have a complete package to unlock growth and make a significant footprint in the global travel industry. Our two partnerships with Distribusion could not come at a better moment, when new entrants and market dynamics are pushing towards improving the overall offer and experience” said Antoine de Kerviler, Head of Rail & Ground Travel at Amadeus. “Imagine booking a convenient airport bus transfer on top of your flight and a weekend getaway by rail – all on the same itinerary through your travel retailer – this is door-to-door travel at its best.”

Julian Hauck, Founder & CEO of Distribusion said: “travel sellers are paying more attention to bus travel to continue enriching their offer to travellers, and have been longing to add this kind of content in a simple, standardised and effective way for some time. The combination of our market leading bus content with Amadeus’ travel seller network will open the door to new travellers. We’re really looking forward to this new phase with Amadeus.”

Distribusion is the leading global distributor (GDS) for airport transfer and intercity bus rides, enabling travel retailers to connect with airport transfer and bus operators worldwide. The portfolio of 4 million bus rides of 300+ operators to 2,500+ destinations and 200+ airports make Distribusion the market leader in Europe.

Distribusion will take part in the Airport Access Ideas Forum, taking place in London on 7th of June, discussing why bus transfer is relevant for airport passengers, and what technical barriers & challenges exist today to link bus with air travel.

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USA: The ground transportation booking platform Mozio Inc. and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA have launched a partnership to bring mobile ticketing to SEPTA’s Airport Line. From now on, people traveling between the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) and City Centre will be able to purchase SEPTA Airport Line tickets anytime, anywhere, from the convenience of their mobile devices. During the six-month pilot program, the app will also allow users to book Lyft, local taxi and sedan rides on Mozio’s multimodal platform, with plans to add additional ground transportation providers over the course of the summer and into the fall. The partnership breaks ground for both organizations, as the debut of mobile ticketing on SEPTA and the launch of Mozio’s mobile compliment to its online platform.

To get started, travellers download the Mozio app, create a free account, and search for transportation options between PHL and their destination. For searches within a 15 minute walk of SEPTA’s five Center City Regional Rail Stations, the SEPTA Airport Line will be prominently displayed as an efficient and economical means of travel. Electronic tickets are stored in the Mozio app and visually validated by conductors onboard. SEPTA Airport Line customers will gain the flexibility to buy tickets months ahead of time or while standing on the station platform, while eliminating the need to carry cash or keep track of a paper ticket. The app is currently available on iOS with plans to launch on Android later this year.

Mozio App

“We are thrilled to be working with SEPTA and launching our multimodal app in the economic and cultural hub that is Philadelphia,” said Mozio CEO David Litwak. “Cities can be stressful to navigate, particularly for visitors and individuals unfamiliar with the ground transit options available to them. Our platform seeks to provide anxiety-free travel, allowing individuals to compare, contrast, and ultimately book the modes of transit that best suit their needs.”

The Mozio and SEPTA partnership will bring a variety of benefits to both parties. By adding the Airport Line to Mozio’s platform, SEPTA will gain visibility – including international exposure – to a large number of the 30+ million visitors that will travel to Philadelphia this year for work, vacation, the NFL draft, college graduations, 4th of July Festivities, and more. Mozio currently works with leading corporate and leisure travel entities including Booking.com, Kayak, Skyscanner, hotels, airlines, and travel management companies.

Launching a multimodal booking app is a natural extension of Mozio’s existing portfolio, and Philadelphia is an excellent testbed for understanding how public transit can serve air travelers. “Having spent the last five years aggregating 3,000 ground transportation providers in over 2,500 cities onto a single platform, we are well-positioned to launch the world’s first scalable mobility as a service solution,” added John McGinty who directs public transit partnerships and is managing the Philadelphia pilot. “Our goal is for individuals to be able to book convenient, reliable, and affordable ground transportation around the world, on a familiar platform in the language and currency they are most comfortable with.” The customer feedback and data Mozio collects during the pilot will help inform enhanced functionality the company seeks to rollout in the near future, including the ability for customers to stitch together rides, seamlessly booking a bike to a metro, train to a cab, and more with a single transaction.

Mozio will take part in the Airport Access Ideas Forum, taking place in London on 7th of June, with the presentation "3,000 Providers and Counting: Lessons Learned Building a Global Multimodal Transit Platform"

The Mozio app is now available for download. Individuals can download the mobile app by visiting http://try.mozio.com/mobile/ or by searching for “Mozio” on the iOS App Store.

For more information about Mozio, visit https://www.mozio.com/ or email John McGinty at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more information about Mozio and SEPTA’s partnership, please visit http://www.septa.org/mozio/pilot.html.

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UK: Train travellers are snapping up new mobile-friendly eTickets, with more than one million sold in the first six months, Rail Delivery Group (RDG) announced.

eTickets can be stored on a smartphone or mobile device and used through the train company app, in Apple Wallet and by email.

Virgin Trains West Coast, in partnership with Trainline, were the first to offer eTickets in August last year. Gatwick Express and TransPennine Express followed suit and Caledonian Sleeper will offer eTickets soon. In the six months since launching over 1.4million eTickets have been sold.

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Latest figures from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train companies, show that 85% of tickets sold online by Gatwick Express are eTickets. Virgin Trains West Coast reports that almost half (47%) of those customers presented with the option to purchase eTickets over paper options choose to do so. Research by online ticket retailer Trainline, who sell Virgin West Coast eTickets, show that four in five customers (82%) rated using eTickets as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ and that almost nine in ten (89%) would buy one again.

The eTicket design was collaboratively developed by the train companies, RDG and two of the industry’s technology suppliers – Trainline and Assertis. The eTicket design and format will be developed further to cover a wider range of ticket types and fares and to include clearer, simpler information for passengers.

The RDG is working with train companies to enable passengers across the country to use smartphones as tickets by 2018. Train companies have pioneered different types of mobile-friendly electronic tickets including the current m-Ticket on services operated by Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, Great Western Railway, Greater Anglia, Northern, London Midland, ScotRail, TransPennine Express and Virgin Trains East and West Coast.

Dennis Rocks, RDG Managing Director of Technology Services, said:

“The railway must move with the times. All train companies are improving and modernising how they sell tickets, developing mobile-friendly, smarter types of electronic tickets to make it quicker and easier for people to pay to travel by train.

“It’s great to see 1.4 million eTickets sold in just six months. More and more train travellers are discovering the benefits of being able to buy tickets online and download them to a smartphone or other device rather than having to rely on the old orange paper type.”

Angie Doll, Gatwick Express Passenger Services Director, said:

“With these online eTickets passengers really can glide to Gatwick. They feature a 10% discount and we’re selling 65,000 a month. They’re brilliant for the very large number of people making simple journeys to and from the airport – a logical and positive innovation that moves us from the antiquated era of the orange paper ticket to the modern systems used by airlines across the world.

“Passengers have the immediate reassurance of seeing the ticket on their phone or device the moment they have bought it. They don’t have to queue to collect it from a machine when they arrive at the airport – indeed eTickets and the roll out of Oyster and Contactless at Gatwick have slashed queues at the airport.”

Alistair Lees, Managing Director of Assertis, said:

“eTickets enable customers to get their tickets immediately, without the need to download an app, and to use either their smartphone or an A4 print-out to travel – whichever they find easiest. We are pleased to have been able to work collaboratively with train companies and other suppliers to take this from an idea to a successful roll out in such a short space of time, and are looking forward to helping roll it out nationally.”

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NEW ZEALAND: The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport boards have come to an important agreement on the next steps for mass transit in Auckland.

Both boards have agreed that there will be a staged, integrated transition from bus to light rail transit from the Airport to the city centre, based on future demand and capacity, and to commence route protection for this important gateway corridor between two of Auckland’s key growing employment areas.

Further work will be done to assess key operational elements, required trade-offs, flow on effects, transition impacts and network resilience issues.

The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport will work together with Auckland Council to determine an integrated approach that enables a progression from the current bus services and bus lanes, to improved bus services in the short-term. This will potentially be followed by higher capacity buses and a dedicated bus mass transit right of way, before a transition to light rail transit could occur.

The timing for this transition will be based on demand, capacity and funding.

The most recent Advanced Bus Solution study commissioned by the NZ Transport Agency is a useful input into existing data and builds on previous studies such as the Central Access Plan, the South-Western Multi-modal Airport Rapid Transit Study and the Auckland Transport Alignment Project, with Auckland Council.

“We are collaborating to ensure that transport works for Aucklanders, businesses and visitors, and that it also delivers value for money. Further work will be undertaken to identify how, over time, a transition from the current bus services and bus lanes to higher capacity mass transit and a dedicated mass transit right of way could occur,” Transport Agency Auckland Regional Director Ernst Zöllner said.

“We have also taken immediate measures in the 2015-2018 National Land Transport Programme to deliver improved public transport solutions around the greater Airport area, which supports a package of short term improvements being developed to address urgent access issues.”

Auckland Transport Chief Executive David Warburton said:

“This is a positive and constructive next step in bringing the Auckland Transport Alignment Project to life. The parties involved are now in agreement that urgent action needs to be taken and we will commence route protection for mass transit.”

“The agencies have agreed and confirmed through various studies that Dominion Rd is the preferred route and we all acknowledge not only the importance of the Airport Precinct and the city centre, but the public transport access and connectivity that is needed along the route.

“Any transition plan needs to consider the lead time required for transition steps such as construction timeframes, and the continued operation of the network in delivering the best value for money option."

In parallel, work will be undertaken to progress route protection of the south-eastern connection from the Airport to Manukau City Centre and east to Botany to ensure good connections to the Airport and its surrounding employment zones.

The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport will also continue to work with Auckland Council and Auckland International Airport Limited to jointly develop and implement a package of short term access improvements to the Airport.

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RUSSIA: The first of two new Aeroexpress platforms at Domodedovo Airport has officially opened for operations, marking a significant milestone in company’s large scale renovation programme of infrastructure facilities located on the Domodedovo route. 

The Aeroexpress Domodedovo rail terminal will be completed in 2Q2018 and will be ready to host guests and participants of the World Football Cup. Aeroexpress plans to invest over RUB 2,043 million into construction.

"Putting the new platform into service at Domodedovo is a big step in measures to prepare Moscow’s entire transport complex for the 2018 World Football Cup," says Aeroexpress' COO Valery Fyodorov. "The Domodedovo route is usually the most used direction so the main objective of renovating infrastructure there is to increase capacity and improve the quality of transfer services provided to passengers."

The first phase of implementing the comprehensive infrastructure renovation programme for the Domodedovo direction occurred with the opening of the upgraded Aeroexpress terminal at the Paveletsky Rail Terminal in December 2015. The second phase involves building two platforms at Domodedovo. The platforms are specially built to accommodate the new double-decker trains produced by Stadler. The third stage will bring Aeroexpress' own terminal at Domodedovo Airport into service.

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Milda Manomaityte

Director

Global AirRail Alliance

 

EVENTS: Earlier this week I had a privilege to speak at the annual Passenger Terminal Conference, celebrating its 20th year anniversary in Amsterdam. With nearly 7000 visitors, speakers and conference participants, the Passenger Terminal Expo & Conference is clearly the biggest and most important annual gathering for global airports and suppliers.

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Among 11 different conference tracks “Airport Cities, Transport Connections & Tourism” session discussed various airport access issues.

Over the years, as the director of the Global AirRail Alliance, I have been asked one question so many times, that I thought it would be a good idea to address it in my presentation, titled “Why airports should stop relying on car parking revenues”, and maybe challenge the “we’ve always done it this way” thinking.

And the question that I’m asked very often is – “why should we, the airport, invest in rail links when most of our revenue comes from people parking their vehicles at our car parks?”

That is a fair question, as according to the Airports Council International (ACI), car parking revenue brings about 20% of total operational (aeronautical and non-aeronautical) revenue for airport hubs of all sizes. In the meantime passenger airline landing fees bring about 18% of total operational revenue. The numbers shift a little bit if you look at Large (19% car parking and 16% airline fees), Medium (15% and 24%), and Small (10% and 26%) airports.

And even though car parking and car rental concessions are still a core revenue stream for airports, they can no longer be taken for granted as a consistent source of business.

According to ACI, real per-passenger revenues from each fell by -3.6% and -4.2% in 2013 alone. Compared to 2008 levels, revenues are down -14% and -25.1%, respectively.

So will future airport car parks become something like Olympic stadiums from the past? Probably not, but there are two major disruptors that will impact car parking business at airports – new technology and change in behaviour.

The biggest disruptor for this business model will be the arrival of driverless cars. A report by KPMG found that 74% of UK automotive executives think that by 2025, more than half of car owners today will not want to own a vehicle, as self-driving technology and Mobility as a Service will take priority. This massive change is less than a decade away and now is the time for airports to seriously consider how it will affect their ground transport services and terminal design. 

The increase in uptake of ride hail and shared economy is also making a significant impact to car parking business at airports. Beijing International Airport reported car parking revenue dip in 2015 due to the decrease in long-term car parking because of the rise in the car-hailing and valet parking services.

Uber is available at airports in over 400 cities worldwide and Lyft serves over 130 airports in USA.

At the Passenger Terminal Conference sessions airports emphasized the struggle they are facing in dealing with car-hailing companies where this service is still illegal. That includes blocking the Uber app on the airport wifi or working with taxi drivers who spot and report uber drivers lingering at the airport.

But this approach in no way benefit the passengers. And one passenger group is bringing a massive change in the way we will travel in the future - Millennials are the biggest generation that is now approaching their peak spending age.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, the reasons and motivations for transportation choices are pragmatic - 46% of millennials state that a need to save money drives their choices; 46% also note convenience, 44% want exercise, and 35% say they live in a community where it just makes more sense to use transit.

Millennials are multimodal, they choose the best transportation mode (driving, transit, bike, or walk) based on the trip they are planning to take. Communities that attract Millennials have a multitude of transportation choices. So, naturally, they will want the same from airports.

In fact, in the beginning of March a national public opinion survey found that 93% of Americans believe airport terminals could be better connected to the region’s ground transportation and transit networks.

To cater the future travellers airports must think about multimodal hubs that will integrate rail, bus, car hailing or sharing, driverless, cycling and walkable travel options. By doing so, airports really need to think about the passenger journey experience and create a seamless and intuitive flow and wayfinding to, from and through terminals.

Airports cannot afford to be protective of the car parking revenues, because the market is changing rapidly and this business model is no longer reliable to sustain its financial growth.

Nobody really knows how the new technology and the new generations of travellers will affect car parking business, but one thing is clear, there needs to be a focus on providing multimodal seamless travel options for the connected passenger.

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Leanne Wheeler,

Operations Manager / Senior Consultant,

Special Correspondent airrail NEWS

EVENTS: Arguably the star of the 11th Middle East Rail Conference held on 7th-8th March in Dubai (UAE), Hyperloop One announced that it is gearing towards conducting its first full-scale tests of the system. This follows motor propulsion tests conducted last year and the recent signing of a MoU with the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to develop a regulatory framework for the new mode’s operation that can be used as a baseline model for gaining safety accreditation throughout the world.

Hyperloop One announced at the conference that a full-scale test facility (termed ‘Devloop’) has been under construction in the Nevada desert north of Las Vegas in recent months, with combined tests of the system’s vacuum air pressure, passive maglev, motor propulsion and braking due to be underway in a full-scale loop by mid-2017. This timeline aligns with the organisation’s desire to enter the first freight carrying pods into service in 2020, with passenger services following by 2021.

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Although making the announcement at a rail conference, Hyperloop One was keen to highlight in its keynote that the system is not a new form of rail but will instead represent a brand new and innovative mode of transport altogether, predicting the impact of the system’s launch to be similar to that of the aeroplane in 1903. Accordingly, Hyperloop One will ‘redefine regions’, revolutionise trade and bring unprecedented benefits to global and regional economies. Indeed, with predicted journey times of just 12 minutes between Dubai and Abu Dhabi (and an eventual plan for no two cities in the GCC to be more than an hour apart) it is easy to see how this transformative mode could do just that.

However, by presenting at a rail conference Hyperloop One opened itself to challenge from the operational and technical experts in the room. Perhaps aware of this, Nick Earle, SVP Global Field Operations for Hyperloop One commented that: “Elon Musk first said that when people are presented with the concept of Hyperloop, there are two reactions. The first is to think that this is a sci-fi idea that will never work and the second is to question why it hasn’t been done years before”.

It remains to be seen whether the former will prove true. Rail experts understandably questioned the system’s safety, robustness in times of disruption and ability to operate with an expected 10-20 second headway at speeds of 671 mph (1000kmph or 300m/s). To put this into context, at the lower 10 second headway, this would see pods travelling just 1.86 miles apart at supersonic speeds. What happens if the one in front breaks down, for example?

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Upon questioning at the stand, representatives from Hyperloop appeared evasive on the specifics, which is perhaps forgivable given that the system is yet to undergo any form of dynamic testing. Further probing elicited that pods would “talk to each other” in the event of a breakdown and that there would be suitable provisions made for exits along the route to facilitate emergency evacuations if required.

Other equally pressing questions remain. For pods to travel at such speeds, tubes would surely need to be constructed along a perfectly straight trajectory, with zero gradient. Whilst this may be easily depicted at the design stage, it is somewhat hard to believe that this can work in practice across varied global geographies. After all, railway professionals are acutely aware that first and foremost, the railway is a triumph of engineering as hills, mountains, rivers, and other topological constraints all need to be overcome.

Given the many questions that loom large over the horizon of the Nevada desert as Devloop gets underway, it is hard at this stage to think of Hyperloop as anything more than a concept; albeit an exciting one at that. For this reason, Hyperloop One’s presentations at the conference were met with at best a mixture of keen interest and reserved anticipation and at worst a form of disbelief that bordered on disdain. 

That said, it is perfectly feasible to imagine that similar questions existed over 200 years ago prior to the launch of the first train and 125 years ago prior to the first aeroplane taking off and landing. Now Hyperloop One threatens to disrupt the prevalence of both modes and perhaps replace them altogether. 

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“Broadband for people and freight” – Hyperloop explained.

  • Innovative entrepreneur Elon Musk first conceptualised the idea of a Hyperloop transport system in a 2013 whitepaper. Currently there are five organisations progressing the concept, with Hyperloop One being the first to announce full-scale research and testing. 
  • Hyperloop One will operate as a ‘point-to-point, autonomous’ service, likened to Uber, with passengers choosing their destination at the departure terminal and climbing into pods that arrive on demand.
  • The system’s Application Programming Interface (API) will be opened to developers to encourage innovation and interoperability. This will complement evolving travel trends such as customers buying ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS) and enable seamless integration with other autonomous modes.
  • Pods will travel at more than airline speeds and be capable of coasting for 40-50km with zero degradation to speed. Consequently, the system is incredibly low-energy intensive.
  • Global accounting firm KPMG has confirmed that Hyperloop could ultimately represent a 2/3 cost saving in comparison to High Speed Rail.
  • Hyperloop One is keen to point out that whilst the system’s benefits relate principally to giving people the “value of time” and of “redefining regions”, the true benefits of Hyperloop are probably yet to be even imagined. This was likened to the impact of broadband having been “more than just web pages loading faster”. The system was thus likened to being “broadband for people and freight”.
  • Hyperloop One has so far raised US$160 bn to conduct research on the system, with this figure set to increase given the recent recruitment of ex-Uber CFO Brent Callinicos. 
  • The proposed journey time from Dubai to Abu Dhabi is just 12 minutes, with tickets set to cost just 28AED (US$ 7.62). Similarly, a proposed link between Stockholm and Helsinki is set to take 28 minutes and cost 28 EUR (US$29.79).
  • Hyperloop One is rapidly expanding, with the firm set to double its number of employees from 250 to 500 by the end of this year alone.

Posted on in Events News

EVENTS: Regulars at Middle East Rail felt that numbers were down on previous years, perhaps reflecting the number of rail projects in the region that appear to be on pause. Despite this there was an august roster of keynote speakers. H.E. Dr Abdulla Belhaif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Infrastructure Development, & Chairman, Federal Transport Authority - Land & Maritime UAE, H.E. Dr Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Secretary General, Secretariat General of the Gulf Cooperation Council talked of the need for a more active private sector investment in projects, perhaps reflecting the need for a top-up on direct government finance with oil prices remaining relatively low. H.E. Dr Rumaih Al Rumaih, President, Public Transport Authority, & President, Saudi Railways Organisation added that urban transport projects in Makkah, Damman, Jeddah and Medina are moving towards PPP structures.

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Meanwhile, as if to prepare for a post-Brexit Britain, Paul Maynard MP, Rail Minister, Department for Transport UK, maximised on the UK’s first mover advantage in railways to push nearly 200 years of expertise on this large export market. Sir Peter Hendy, Chairman of Network Rail was similarly on-message, mentioning several times how his Network Rail Consulting division, already ensconced in Saudi Arabia’s North-South Railway, could do much more. Hendy’s talk was timely as NRC (with Serco and Freightliner) had helped Saudi Arabian Railways launched the first commercial passenger service from Riyadh to Al Qassim. The route also includes British station design that incorporates function and form; stations that are modern and reflect Saudi culture and heritage. 

His talk focused on lessons learnt from different rail industry structures (and the UK has seen them all) and how they might be applied in the region. He also gave an insight into Network Rail’s latest direction, devolving power to geographical routes which will be separately regulated. He also talked about the need for private sector capital, and how they were looking to ‘open up the network’ to private project organisations.

Perhaps the star of Middle East Rail 2017 was a transport mode that can’t be described as ‘rail’, Hyperloop One. Boasting a 12 minute journey time from Dubai to Abu Dhabi there was much interest from many in the rail industry wondering if this disruptive technology might be about to replace them. In next week’s airrail NEWS, Leanne Wheeler, special correspondent and customer experience specialist will provide a detailed update on Hyperloop One and discuss some of their plans to revolutionise mobility and ‘redefine regions’.

Posted on in News

AUSTRALIA: The federal government has selected a consortium led by SNC-Lavalin Rail & Transit to deliver core component of the concept design for rail infrastructure on the new Western Sydney Airport site, govnews.com reported.

SNC-Lavalin will develop a feasibility design and detailed estimates of the cost and time required to construct rail infrastructure on the Western Sydney Airport site.

According to the federal government, this work is part of the $26 million funding commitment in the Australian Government’s 2016-17 Budget towards the rail design and will lay the foundation for a future rail service to the airport.

In addition to SNC-Lavalin, the consortium includes Aquenta, Architectus, Norman Disney & Young, SMEC and Stacey Agnew, which will provide a team with a broad range of expertise, covering all aspects of rail design, costing and operations.

The consortium will work closely with the federal government and with Transport for New South Wales over the coming months. The Rail Feasibility Design will inform the federal government on the construction program and cost of Western Sydney Airport rail works.

It will also provide information about early preparatory activities necessary for the future development of rail services to the airport site. The Rail Feasibility Design will consider several rail alignment and station options.

This project involves developing a design for the rail corridor on the airport site, as part of ensuring that Western Sydney Airport is rail ready.

The Rail Feasibility Design is expected to be submitted to the federal Government in the first half of 2017 following the Joint Scoping Study of Rail Needs for Western Sydney, which is currently underway.

The Joint Scoping Study will also inform advice to the Australian Government on the timing, potential routes and the type of rail services to the Western Sydney Airport.

Posted on in News

USA: A new HNTB America THINKS national public opinion survey found that 93% of Americans believe airport terminals could be better connected to the region’s ground transportation and transit networks.

The survey, Airport Terminals -2017, found that four in five (84%) Americans would use rail transit if it could get them to the airport and back more efficiently than by car. The survey also found that more than four in five believe parking (81%) and drop-off or pick-up curbs (81%) have either stayed the same or gotten worse in the past 10 years.

“Ground access to the airport terminal, the movement of automobile traffic, passenger pick-up/drop off and parking are factors that increasingly determine the quality of the air travel experience,” said Laddie Irion, HNTB’s national aviation sector market leader and senior vice president. “The interest in public transit access to airports is very strong. In planning for improvements, airport authorities should consider partnering with transit agencies to create the public transportation access that travellers seek. They should also recognise that facilitating ease of movement in and around airport terminals along with the amenities found within the terminal building are factors that directly affect the quality and satisfaction of the air travellers’ experience.”

HNTB’s America THINKS survey, Airport Terminals-2017, polled a random nationwide sample of 1,054 Americans ages 18+ between December 1-8, 2016. It was conducted by Kelton Global, which used an e-mail invitation and online survey. Quotas were set to ensure reliable representation of the entire U.S. population ages 18 and over. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.

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Posted on in News

TAIWAN: Taipei Taoyuan Airport MRT has officially opened for operations on 2nd March 2017, carrying over 52,000 people on the first day of service.

Taoyan Airport MRT opening5

The system offers express services and regular services, with trains colored purple and blue respectively.

The express service has four passenger carriages and one luggage carriage and stops only at Taipei Main Station (A1), New Taipei Industrial Park Station (A3), Chang Gung Memorial Hospital Station (A8), Airport Terminal One Station (A12) and Airport Terminal Station (A13). The entire trip takes about 35 minutes.

The regular service makes stops at every station and takes about 70 minutes.

Taipei Airport MRT Route Map2

Taipei Main Station, is the only station that initially will offer advanced check-in at least three hours before the flight for passengers taking the Airport MRT.

According to the company, airline check-in areas are planned to be implemented at the New Taipei Industrial Park and Hengshan stations, but it is not yet known when these facilities will be operational.

Posted on in News

UK: Heathrow Express has been awarded Business Superbrands status for 2017, for the 11th consecutive year in a row. 

This annual survey has been identifying the UK’s leading business-to-business brands since 2001. The process was managed by The Centre of Brand Analysis (TVBA) and questioned 2,500 individual business professionals from across the UK, as well as the independent and voluntary Business Superbrands Councils.

The two audiences judged nearly 1,500 brands, which they assessed on three key criteria: quality, reliability and distinction.

Fraser Brown, Director of Heathrow Express said: “All my colleagues work hard to ensure Heathrow Express provides a fast, reliable, innovative and customer focussed service. I am delighted Heathrow Express has been awarded Superbrand status and has once again been recognised for the premium service it provides and its excellence as a train operating company.”

Posted on in News

DISTRIBUTION: Amadeus has launched a new merchant model providing travel agencies around the world with one link to sell multiple railways, bypassing the need for one-to-one commercial relationships between both parties. With just one interface and one sales system, the model makes it much easier for travel agencies to sell rail products. Currently the full offers of DB (German), RENFE (Spanish), SNCF (French, available in CESE* only), Trenitalia (Italian) and select eastern European rail operators are available as part of this model, with more expected to join soon.

Amadeus acts as a sales agent for rail operators to simplify contractual agreements, financial flows and invoicing with travel agencies. This will mean reduced costs for railways as Amadeus takes care of all setup, billing and settlement activities, and assumes financial and legal risks of selling via travel agencies. The model will enable railways to reach new travellers in new markets as Amadeus takes care of promoting their offer to travel agencies too.

“Rail travel today is still largely domestic but this will soon change – our merchant model marks the beginning of a new era, giving the industry what it needs to take a global leap, and unlock growth. For travel agencies this will mean a convenient gateway to leading rail content that will serve to enrich their overall offer” said Antoine de Kerviler, Global Head of Rail & Ground Travel at Amadeus.

Foreign travellers can conveniently book rail travel through their travel agency before flying and have their entire trip – including air, hotel and rail – on the same itinerary.

“I am confident that rail will be on the radar of many more travellers now and as it becomes more and more accessible to them – just imagine booking rail the same way as air, all integrated in a single itinerary – it will get the attention it deserves. We look forward to adding more rail operators across all continents in the coming months,” Antoine said.

“The merchant model combines Deutsche Bahn's market leading transport services with the technological power of Amadeus. With this new agreement Deutsche Bahn vastly extends its global network.” says Ronn Kostecki, Project Manager at Deutsche Bahn. “We will improve the availability of our tickets to all travel agencies, particularly those with a wide travel offer.

“The new agreement with Amadeus will let Trenitalia increase its global reach in an exponential way. It will be much easier for travel agencies, no matter their size, to distribute our products and let travellers from all around the world move across Italy by train, which in the last years has become one of the most pleasant and convenient ways to travel to top Italian destinations” comments Alessandra Bucci, Commercial Director of Long Haul Passenger Division at Trenitalia. “Moreover, this is a further step towards our ambitious project of offering our customers an integrated travel solution, covering their trip door-to-door in Italy”.