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Putting the customer first, it’s a Japanese thing

July 24, 2015
Author: Mirja Sickel

I recently took on the marketing responsibility to combine the Sales and Marketing activities for Amadeus Rail, and with my previous experience in Marketing, I’m looking forward to creating a more customer centric approach to our day to day marketing work. Talking of customer first, I’d like to share with you a truly fascinating and amazing cultural experience I recently had.

Japan - a place where high speed rail was born

I attended the UIC event on High Speed Rail which was held this year in the country where high speed rail started 50 years ago: Japan. This meant I got the opportunity to travel to this wonderful country and spend a week in Tokyo.  

This city is truly fascinating, with its mixture of tradition and modern life including fashion, food and general lifestyle it was a perfect host for this conference. With more than 1000 attendees and representatives from railways all around the world this was a very eye catching event. Whilst a big part of the event focused on infrastructure and engineering parts, there were also interesting presentations and discussions on software, distribution, ticketing, mobile evolution and the challenging competitive business environment railways face around the world from car sharing and coach operators.

Ongoing high speed rail projects 

There are many ongoing HSR projects in Asia, with China leading the expansion with its incredible pace, the interesting project connecting Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, the Russian 770km route between Moscow to Kazan or the completion of the targeted 10.000 km High Speed Rail until 2030 in Turkey.


Apart from Asia, Middle East, with the Haramain route due to open next year or the USA with the Texan link are interesting HSR projects. But also in Europe important projects are still ongoing to fill the gaps in Europe’s HSR Network: in France the completion of important links such as LGV Est to Strasbourg, Nimes-Montpellier and Bretagne Le Mans-Rennes, in Spain (despite its challenging economical environment) still expanding tracks to the north and west, and finally in Germany with its stretches between Leipzig and Erfurt to make Berlin – Munich accessible in 3:55 hours and the Stuttgart stretch to reduce Kóln – Munich to 4 hours. Things are looking up for the rail traveller!

Celebrating the past and designing the future

The theme of the UIC conference was “celebrate the past” (also the anniversary of the Shinkansen bullet train in Japan) and “design the future”. A panel of well known industry leaders presented what they felt were the main areas that will drive the future. Many of these have also been identified by Amadeus Rail as driving forces to strengthen rail travel as an alternative mode of transport, and that it is better connected into the travel ecosystem. We believe that we can support the industry with finding solutions in todays competitive and challenging environment, with a focus on the customer.

This is what the round table speakers felt would make a change to the next 50 years,  

  • Rachel Picard (Director, SNCF Voyages (France): The digital revolution,
  • Roderick A Smith (Professor, Imperial College London (UK): The wireless transfer of power and information,
  • Akihiro Horisaka (Director, Senior Executive Officer, JR West (Japan): A seamless service,
  • Jürgen Brandes (CEO of Mobility Management, Mobility Division, Siemens (Germany): The integration of the first and last miles into the high speed travel experience,
  • Eduardo Ramo (President, Fundación Caminos de Hierro (Spain): 400 kph travel from door-2-door,
  • John Porcari (Senior Vice President and National Director of Strategic Consulting, Parsons Brinckerhoff (USA): The seamless productive first and last miles,
  • Philippe Citroen (Director General, UNIFE): ERMTS/enhanced signalling systems,
  • Zhao Guotang (China Railways): Transforming a harmful effect into a positive one,
  • Ömer Yildiz (CEO TCDD Turkey): The digital revolution, and
  • Nicolas Castres Saint-Martin Chief Technical Officer, Alstom (France): The digital revolution & on board energy storage

 My top 3 events

So what would I pick as my top 3 events from this thrilling week?

  • Two jetlagged Europeans arriving in Narita Airport working in the rail industry, decide to take a taxi to the hotel. The taxi instructor kindly recognizes that we both want to go to the same hotel and suggests we share a taxi. Besides the nice knock-on effect of sharing the taxi cost, I got to know Jörg from Austria who works for Linmag (providing track maintenance hardware) and also came to Tokyo for the UIC conference. We became friends and together enjoyed the conference and dinners during the week. I'm not sure we would have met on the train… ;-)
  • The excursion to Kanazawa by the Shinkansen Bullet Train, to visit a maintenance plant of the very same bullet trains. It was great to see the hyper modern train in different ‘pieces’ being assembled ready to run at 300KM/hr. At departures in Tokyo Central Station, I got to know the General Manager of the station who introduced himself by handshake personally (see obligatory selfie while in Japan :)
  • The constant friendliness, support and professionalism of the Japanese organisers: this made the stay and event a memorable experience. You could never get lost, as many ‘mobile’ signs (Japanese people holding signs with arrows telling you where to go next) were always guiding you on the way.


I am really looking forward to the next one in 2017 which is to be co-hosted by TCDD (Turkish Railways) in Turkey.


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