Crown Commercial Service: Travel solutions on track

Source: PSE Aug/Sept 2018

Katrina Williams, head of travel at the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), explains how they are helping government organisations to get the best deal when buying travel solutions.

It has been a trend since before the turn of the century: digital communication continues to reduce the need for extensive business travel. In a sense, the change marks a return to the old days of businessmen in bowler hats taking the train to their London office – except that it’s now just as likely to be women making the journey. And chances are you’ll see a laptop bag rather than a briefcase.

Regardless, public-sector workers can still find themselves faced with demanding travel needs, and looking for solutions that offer ease of use, value, and sustainability. At CCS, we now offer a suite of commercial solutions to manage the cost of travel.

CCS helps government, public- and third-sector organisations to get the best deal when buying common goods and services, including travel. We recently launched a new suite of Public Sector Travel and Venue Solutions, enabling the online booking of rail, air travel and accommodation, as well as event services and other travel provisions. One area of focus is the organisation’s management of £250m annual spend on rail travel via negotiated deals with train operators and best-in-class booking processes.

Encouraging public-sector workers to travel by rail could help deliver a modal shift toward more environmentally sustainable solutions – one of key drivers behind the CCS and the wider public sector.

Getting the most out of your journey

Some common, knotty issues impede the take-up of rail as a primary business travel solution. In many cases, it’s the same things we face when travelling by rail in a personal capacity.

Fast, reliable wi-fi can make rail an attractive option, but free wi-fi is often restricted to the first 15 minutes in standard class. Paying for wi-fi then reclaiming via expenses can involve additional time and cost.

The ability to pre-select seating with tables and power sockets is a significant benefit for workers concerned with productivity while travelling. At the same time, seat reservations may sometimes be difficult to find, and there is always the chance of encountering a thoughtless passenger sitting in the seat you have booked, or a train operator cancelling seat reservations at the last minute, without warning.

Issues like station parking also have to be considered. It can cost £12 a day to park at a train station, meaning it could even be cheaper to drive your journey.

The rail industry needs to consider the end-to-end costs and the overall impact on travel budgets that its policies can impact in order to increase usage and boost the sustainability and user-friendliness of its services.

CCS continues to work with rail operators to explore the commercial benefits of encouraging a modal shift towards rail. We welcome the rail industry’s current review of fares, including guidance around split ticketing – which some travellers take advantage of where this offers a lower cost.

We also welcome the industry’s refreshed approach towards paying compensation after delays of 30 (or even 15) minutes, with the proviso that this process needs to be automated to make it as easy as possible for people to claim.

The suite of solutions offered by CCS will enhance customer choice and commercial value for organisations and public-sector workers managing rail travel. Combined with the positive industry developments mentioned above, rail travel could become the public sector’s main ground transport solution for business travel.


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