News Archive

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SWEDEN: The “Ostlänken” or Eastern Link project is one of the first steps towards a generation of new railway infrastructure in Sweden. Ostlänken is planned as a new double-track high speed railway between Järna near Södertälje and Linköping, a route of about 150km. The COWI and SYSTRA consortium has won the award for the third package of the Eastern Link.

Ostlänken is a high speed rail project providing improved connectivity with a double track railway from Linköping to Järna and Greater Stockholm via Norrköping, Nyköping / Skavsta and Trosa / Vagnhärad. Currently the social and economic development of the area is constrained by lack of capacity. Ostlänken will facilitate the expansion of the entire region, creating both economic and cultural growth allowing people to move quickly and easily between jobs, education, housing, leisure and culture. Ostlänken will also be part of a future high-speed rail from Stockholm to Gothenburg and Malmö / Copenhagen that will allow trains to travel at 320 kph.

Easter Link Sweden

The Swedish Transport Agency has appointed the COWI and SYSTRA Consortium as responsible technical consultant for the third package of the Eastern Link. The assignment includes developing 65km of track and railway systems from Sillekrog to Stavsjö with a link to Nyköping and a new station at Skavsta Airport. Of the four packages that divide the Eastern Link, this is the longest stretch. The project runs through large areas of natural beauty and soft soil areas which pose challenges for the stability of the track. Overall, the assignment includes 77 bridges and some short length tunnels.

“We are very proud and pleased to have been awarded this assignment. It is a prestigious project that will strengthen our presence in Sweden and will further broaden our international credential in the field of high speed rail design”, Pascal Mercier, SVP Northern Europe Region at SYSTRA said.

"We are very proud to have won this project as the competition was fierce. This prestigious project will further strengthen our position as a strong player in high-speed rails," Christer Niland, Vice President, Transportation, COWI Sweden said.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2017 and the first trains will commence operation in 2028.

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UK: The train companies shortlisted to transform rail services in East Anglia have been announced on 2nd June by the UK government.

Three companies are in the running for the next East Anglia rail franchise, having successfully passed the pre-qualification stage. They will work with the government to develop their proposals before receiving the invitation to tender in August.

East Anglia franchise includes Stansted Express services and a link to Southend Airport.

According to the East Anglia franchise prospectus, Stansted Express faces the greatest competition from coaches and direct buses into London for the airport market share.

Stansted Express

This competition has been mirrored in the decline of the rail market share to the airport. The coach share has grown from 21% in 2008 to 29% in 2013, whilst rail has declined to 22%.

Overall though, 49% of airport users arrive by car due to the convenience of accessing the airport by road, particularly during peak flight times in the early mornings and late evenings.

Bidders will be asked to show how they will improve the region’s railways, including providing reduced journey times to London, more reliable services, and better connections.
The 3 shortlisted bidders are:

  • Abellio East Anglia Limited (a joint venture between Abellio and Stagecoach)
  • First East Anglia Limited
  • National Express East Anglia Trains Limited

“We have ambitious plans for East Anglia’s rail network, and the successful bidder will be central to making these plans a reality,” Rail Minister Claire Perry said. “We want to find a partner who will help us meet the increasing demand for transport in the region by providing faster, more reliable journeys and better connections across the region and beyond.”

“We are investing record amounts in building a world-class railway as part of our long-term economic plan, and I am determined that passengers in East Anglia will benefit.”

The new operator is due to take over the franchise in October 2016. The East Anglia franchise, which is currently operated by Abellio Greater Anglia, carries 354,000 passengers a day on 5 routes across the region.

A public consultation on the future of rail services in East Anglia closed in March and the responses will be taken into account as the franchise proposals are developed further.

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The winners of Global AirRail Awards 2015 sponsored by the global leaders in comprehensive merchandising, payment and business intelligence technology GuestLogix have been announced in Toronto on 21 May 2015.

Steve Bozeman, Vice President Sales at GuestLogix has opened the awards ceremony, welcoming guests from all around the world. 

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Even though the first air-rail link has opened at the very beginning of commercial aviation in 1927 (Berlin U-Bahn Paradestraße service to Tempelhof Airport) the concept only started to take off in around 90’s when the dedicated airport express services started to pop-up around the world.

Services like Gatwick Express, Heathrow Express, Arlanda Express, Hong Kong Airport Express, Flytoget and others challenged our understanding of traditional railways. Here they were - purpose built, high quality, high speed and esteemed brand rail services to airports that competed not with buses, but with private cars and taxis.

Since then the world has seen more airport expresses coming into operation and more airports connecting with cities by different rail services. The travel industry is changing fast. Passengers are demanding rapid, reliable and comfortable travel options to/from airports. Suppliers are building integrated travel planning and booking solutions, airports, airlines and rail operators are forming partnerships to better serve their customers.

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Global AirRail Awards mission is to follow this positive change and to raise awareness about the many air-rail projects that are happening around the world. To share ideas about customer service excellence and innovation. To celebrate the creativity of organisations and to congratulate their successful partnerships.

15 judges from air and rail industries, excellent specialists in their field, evaluated the entries and chose this year’s winners. Each entry was judged by five to six judges. Each judge had two to three categories to evaluate. Judges varied per category and they were unaware of who had the same category. This was done to ensure the fairness of the competition.


Airport of the Year

This award is dedicated to recognising an airport that actively works with its partners in creating the best air-rail experience for its customers.

Winner - Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

The Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) rail line to the DFW Airport was unique to the company. The service provides a convenient gateway for travellers to get to famous landmarks in Dallas and the airport. The total length of the rail service is 14 miles. DART has created over 54,000 new jobs to the North Texas region.

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Best Air Rail Distribution Solution

This award applauds clear vision, design, and strategic plan that will significantly improve the air-rail passenger experience.

Winner - Travelport

The launch of the Airport Express plugin for Travelport Smartpoint is a first for any GDS, offering agents an integrated and efficient experience when booking express services. Travelport is constantly looking at how they are able to redefine travel commerce and the use of Travelport Marketplace capabilities, a strong developer relationship and clear understanding of both supplier and agency requirements meant that Travelport was able to exceed all expectations.

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Environmental Commitment

This award recognises innovations in air-rail towards sustainable development.

Winner - Flytoget

Flytoget is keen to ensure that the company’s work on sustainability and social responsibility meets the expectations of the stakeholder, and their on-going efforts to poll customers and staff facilitates a more open-hearted and to-the-point dialogue. Transparency and good, targeted dialogue with the company’s stakeholders ensure that Flytoget receives the right feedback, enjoys the possibility of continual improvement and is able to build trust and a good reputation.

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Marketing Campaign of the Year

This award is dedicated to the most creative and successful marketing campaigns in the air-rail sector.

Winner - Express Rail Link Sdn Bhd

Express Rail Link (ERL) executed an integrated marketing campaign to promote the extension of its KLIA Ekspres & KLIA Transit services to the new low-cost carrier terminal called KLIA2 which opened on 2nd May 2014. The overall ridership grew by +38% after the service launch to KLIA2. The whole campaign produced an ROI of 590% after 1 month of operations.

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Customer Service Excellence

The Customer Service Excellence award looks for the best examples of delivering an enjoyable and stress free journey from air to rail.

Winner - MTR Airport Express Line

“Customer-centric” is the cornerstone of Airport Express (AEL). AEL keeps improving the total travel experience and creates values to meet or even go beyond customers’ expectation to achieve service excellence. Customer Service Vision (CSV) was introduced to reinforce the AEL culture with customer-focused initiatives to provide a series of new, premium and value-added services.

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Travelport project of the Year

This award is given to a project that is contributing, or will contribute greatly to future air-rail services.

Winner - UP Express: Transforming Toronto with a Lasting Legacy

UP Express is supported by four stations and 18 new vehicles. Throughout the entire design and construction process, every detail was carefully planned to ensure an UPlifting experience – stations are warm, inspiring and bathed in light. Equipped with a range of amenities including Wi-Fi, ticket kiosks, airline check-in, boarding pass and baggage tag printing, and flight information screen, the stations are an oasis amongst the stress of travel. Additionally, iconic Toronto retailers provide guests with their first taste of the city and strategic partners augment the total experience.

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AccesRail Integrated Partnership of the Year

This award celebrates successful partnerships between operators, suppliers and organisations, who work together to create seamless air-rail journeys.

Winner - UP Express: Uplifting Opportunities

Met with unprecedented support from corporate Canada, businesses are refocusing their marketing budgets to partner with UP Express and reach a coveted audience. With three key partnership categories, we have confirmed a host of partners including:

  • Founding Partners with leading Canadian companies in financial services, professional consulting services, telecommunications and technology sectors.
  • Retail Partners with quintessential Toronto brands like Balzac’s in food and beverage, Drakes in uniquely curated products/ gifts, a famous local brewery for craft beers, as well as POP-UP events for a unique, engaging and memorable experience.
  • Transportation Partners including the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, Canada’s leading Airlines, the Toronto Transit Commission, the City of Toronto and VIA Rail.

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North Start Air Rail Link of the Year

The North Star Air Rail Link of the Year award recognises the service with best performance results and highest overall impact to the air-rail market over the past year.

Winner - Express Rail Link Sdn Bhd

Express Rail Link (ERL) recorded an even better performance in 2014 compared to the year before in terms of passenger ridership, revenue and operating profit despite the KLIA traffic contraction after the Malaysia Airlines’ tragedies in March and July. Total ridership grew by +32% and fare revenue grew by +36% while the market share of KLIA traffic increased to 17% (vs 15% in 2013).

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Personality of the Year

This award is given to a person who through his or her work contributed greatly to promoting and growing the air-rail business in the world.

Winner - Kathy Haley, President, Union Pearson Express

Kathy M. Haley joined Metrolinx as the inaugural President of Union Pearson Express in July 2011. Kathy’s deep understanding of the customer provides her with the insight to anticipate market needs and deliver innovative ideas to change customer experience. Her vision for Toronto and its airport connectivity was integral in bringing a superb team together to build the UP Express as a quality customer service product.

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By Liam Henderson

I attended the Global Air-rail conference in Toronto last week hoping to get some insight into how the air-rail operators approach a balance between business constraints and passenger experience. The starting point for the conference was an introduction to the new UP Express to Pearson Airport (read my review): whether or not it raises the city’s reputation, the impressive passenger growth at the airport means that a rail link is becoming essential: with many different types of passenger taking the local bus to the nearby subway station, I can’t help thinking that the service is going to attract a range of passenger types, not just premium business travellers; if I am arriving into an unfamiliar city I am happy to pay for the certainty that a train offers, and am less sensitive to the ticket cost when abroad – I wonder how long it will be before the service shifts focus to UP capacity.


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Meaningful Engagement

Almost universally amongst other air-rail links present was promotion of 3 key benefits:

  1. Speed
  2. Convenience
  3. Journey time reliability

Competitive pricing was not much discussed. We were told how Gautrain actively engages with potential customers by replying to tweets from drivers stuck in traffic. In this respect, UP Express’ advertising around Toronto is promoting the right message.

upexpress advert

Meaningful engagement with current and potential passengers helps to build the air-rail link’s profile – Edinburgh Trams have engaged hard to recover the system’s reputation since opening, making the tram the obvious link between airport and city centre.

The operator of Stansted Express service relies upon its growing customer database, collected through the sales channel, to promote the service and communicate appropriately with passengers.

Partners in Transport

UP Express presented what it called an ‘ecosystem of partners’ whereby customer services and facilities were provided by experts in the field. For a passenger, this has a benefit of expanding the air-rail service to include extra services such as Wi-Fi, city centre check-in desks or increased journey options – Canada’s VIA Rail offer an UP Express add-on and also work with the airline industry to permit ticket sales that cover the journey through to the final station.

It’s surprising how few airlines offer this add on as a standard practice (Aer Lingus is the only airline that offers passengers a Heathrow Express ticket as part of the sale). I know they are not all as generous as my experience on SkyWork Airlines; however, when you book a flight to a city, it’s generally because you want to travel to that city, whereas most airlines seem to think that their service ends at the arrivals hall. Many presentations showed that these add-ons are available with current ticketing platforms but airlines don’t offer them, meaning the passenger is left with a series of separate bookings for one trip.

For an air-rail operator, through ticket sales enhance the convenience aspect of their service but the industry need to convince airlines that these partnerships will reflect well on the airline.
We heard from the promoters of the Lava Express in Iceland who are already considering a partnership with Icelandair to promote the possible air-rail link for stop-over passengers – in 2023.

Host Airports

The interaction point between airline and train is subject to the competitive ground access industries and the airport’s business interests. It is a reflection of this that paid advertising is used to attract passengers to the link rather than rely on terminal signage. As result of the healthy income from airport parking, the current airport mindset is that they have little incentive to encourage passengers to use a rail link when they could be hosting their vehicle in the long-term parking garage or taking an access payment from the taxi market; however, as we’ve explored, this equation doesn’t really apply to a visitor so providing signage and simpler connections to rail is in the airport’s longer term interest both to enhance its reputation and prove that it can support air passenger growth with some consideration of environmental sustainability.

KLIA Ekspres has gained passengers and supported airport growth in the context of dominant signage on arrival at Kuala Lumpur airport.

In a congested city, any rail link to the airport has the unique advantage of predictable journey time and it’s this message which seems effective. Where there is realistic competition from other local transport, price will influence passenger growth; however, that’s when air-rail operators can rely on their speed and convenience to reinforce their link’s attraction.

In the short term, airports will continue to rely on drivers and taxis for their income – in this market, it is doubly important to encourage airlines to offer through ticketing onto rail. A passenger arriving with their rail ticket already in hand will seek out the train despite poor signage.

In the longer term, policy makers and politicians faced with pressure to meet environmental targets should be linking future airport growth to increasing public transport mode shares. This has been successful in focussing the mind of some airport operators who are now enjoying the benefits of a larger passenger market.

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USA: Bytemark, Inc., a leading provider of mobile ticketing & commerce solutions for the global mass transit industry, has announced its participation at the upcoming Global AirRail Conference 2015. At the show, Founder and CEO Micah Bergdale will deliver a session on “Mobile Technology for Intermodal Travel” at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, May 22. GARA takes place May 20 through May 22 at The Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, Canada.

The session will focus on Bytemark’s advanced mobile ticketing solutions, online and onboard, for Union Pearson Express (UP Express), Canada’s first dedicated airport express rail service that bridges travel between Toronto Pearson International Airport and Toronto's Union Station. Mr. Bergdale will also discuss how Bytemark's ticketing platform will integrate with third party resellers, offering consumers the ability to purchase train tickets when they purchase airfare via travel sites such as, Kayak, Air Canada, Priceline and WestJet.

"It is an honor to address the air-rail operator community at GARA, especially during such an important time in the city of Toronto’s transportation revolution as we quickly approach our imminent launch with UP Express,” said Micah Bergdale. “We’re just a few weeks away from deploying one of the first mobile ticketing solutions for Toronto-area commuters, so the Toronto venue provides the ideal backdrop for us to share this exciting story with GARA attendees.”

UP Express is a $456 million project that, beginning on June 6, will transport an estimated 5,000 travelers daily. Bytemark, Inc. will initially launch web-based ticket purchasing as well as 120+ handheld devices for rail conductors to sell, print and validate tickets onboard. An accompanying mobile app will launch in the fall, allowing UP Express riders the ability to purchase and store rail tickets on their smartphones.

For additional information on Global AirRail Conference 2015 please visit: