Cross-border rail transport is a topic that receives a lot of attention. Or little, depending on the circumstances. Good intentions to simplify things often run up against very tough legal regulations for cross-border rail transport. In addition, each operator develops its own IT system, which complicates the overall distribution. It is reported by Railway Supply magazine with reference to RailTech.


Incumbent operators have no incentive to develop an international IT system (they use different APIs). Every Minister of Transport is more concerned about knowing exactly what the national subsidies he has given are used for, and is therefore not so much concerned with international relations.

At the local level, the impact of this national policy is that rail operators can only sell within the national territory for which they are authorized, and their territory extends to the last station before the border.

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But there is another reason. For an incumbent rail operator, revenues from domestic ticket sales can represent 70 to 90 percent of the company’s total revenue. Deutsche Bahn transports over a billion people a year on local and regional lines, far more than on international lines, which are considered a “residual market”.

There are many different opinions on this matter. Some attribute this to the fact that there are too many stations and fare ranges to fit into the pan-European IT program. The age of the child sometimes differs from country to country (12, 14?). The definition of “student” is not the same everywhere and depends on the national social policy. Others argue that ticket sales and a website are an important marketing tool, and all this is primarily aimed at regular customers, and not at random tourists.

It is still all too often forgotten, but railroads are primarily a matter of national policy, and historically companies have had a clear and single mission to take care of citizens as a priority. This is why ticket sales, which are social and therefore political, differ so much across Europe.

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