Virgin Trains wants motorists to cut out car use entirely when catching a train – and has partnered with Uber to offer more seamless door-to-door travel. As an incentive, early adopters will get 50 percent off their first Virgin Trains-facilitated Uber ride.
The idea is to help passengers more easily request an Uber either to the railway station, or away from it upon arrival at their destination.
Initially, those booking a Virgin Trains ticket online will be able to get an SMS reminder sent to their smartphone; this will contain a link to book an Uber in time to get them to the station without missing their train – and get another one at the end of their trip.
But Virgin Trains has further plans afoot, to “continue optimising passenger journeys and [improve] customer satisfaction before, during, and after they travel”.
The firm’s executive director Sarah Copley says evidence shows “taking the first and final mile is critical to opening up rail travel to new customers.
“Our exciting new partnership with Uber is the next step in making this end-to-end journey easy and seamless for our customers.”
Ubers head of cities, Fred Jones, agrees. “In order to make it easy to leave your own car at home, we want door-to-door experiences to be as seamless and convenient as possible.
“This partnership with Virgin Trains is an exciting first step towards offering customers an easy way to combine train and car travel at the touch of a button.”
Opinion: Every little helps
It doesn’t sound like a major advance, letting people book Ubers when they book a train ticket. But it seems Virgin Trains has evidence it’s not the actual train journey itself that puts people off using them, it’s the hassle that comes either side of it.
By making this bit easier – basically, sorting it out when the ticket’s booked, not just before you have to depart – the train operator believes it can offer motorists one less excuse to try out the train.
Few of us live within walking distance of major train stations. Many of us would thus consider driving there and, once we’ve gone so far, why not drive the rest of the way? Result: one ticket booking investigated, but not taken up.
If Virgin Trains’ ‘door-to-door’ offer can ease this pain point, more people may be encouraged to catch the train. Will it work? We shall see: sometimes, it’s the smallest nudges that can make the biggest difference…