"As everybody knows, it is easy to get distracted by fun new initiatives..."
Friday is here and this week we celebrate the beginning of the weekend with our very first 5 minutes with... interview! Earlier this week, SmartRail reporter, Sarah Wright, took some time to gain an insight into life at Trainline, a digital pioneer in rail ticket sales first in the UK and now increasingly in continental Europe too. Founded in those hazy early days of the internet, 1997, the company has ridden the various waves that have shaped both rail and digital in the last two decades and now sells a ticket every 2.5 seconds online, by telephone and via its mobile app. Putting a face to the company today is Trainline’s very own Bill Hopkins. Working as the Operations Director and as a member of the Executive Board, Bill has more than a decade of first-hand experience and achievement under his belt. Now then, let’s take some time to get to know him…
SW: How did you get into the rail industry?
BH: I worked in the telecommunications sector across Europe and the Caribbean and had been involved in the roll out of technology capabilities such as IP and mobile networks in a world market that was opening up to competition. I really enjoyed being involved in an industry that was enabling rapid change in the world, both in the way we live and do business. In mid-2002 I was approached by a headhunter to join a start-up company called thetrainline.com ( Ed. - In 2015, they dropped 'the' and '.com' in a rebrand) and what excited me about the role was the opportunity to apply new technology to solve a customer problem, focusing on providing a smart way to make it easy for customers to purchase the right rail ticket for their journey. Fourteen years later I’m still here and the excitement of continuous innovation in a dynamic market is as strong as ever.
SW: What do like most about your job?
BH: I love having the opportunity to drive improvement in customer experience of the rail industry through technology. Trainline is a company driven by this, and working with a group of like-minded people who are passionate about making a difference is a joy. For example, currently within Trainline we are focusing on three main areas: creating a seamless digital experience for customers, working with the industry to rapidly drive the availability of mobile tickets, and taking our experience and knowledge to customers across Europe alongside our new partners Captain Train. There are some incredibly talented individuals in the rail industry and to be in an industry that works tirelessly day-to-day to provide an important service to our customers is a privilege.
SW: What’s the biggest challenge in your role?
BH: There are so many exciting opportunities at the moment that the hardest part is to ensure we prioritise and focus on the key areas that make the biggest difference to our customers: providing a seamless digital experience, removing the stress out of getting your ticket, and delivering a great experience across all of Europe. As everybody knows, it is easy to get distracted by fun new initiatives so for me the challenge is to keep my teams focused on delivery and help remove, or find a way around, any obstacles we come across in achieving our targets.
SW: What will the rail industry look like in 10 years’ time?
BH: I’ll leave the future of train technology to better qualified individuals who can advise whether Musk’s Hyperloop vision will come to fruition or not! However, I believe the rail industry will go from strength to strength as the digital age enables mass personalisation and each customer to smartly manage their journey from end to end. There will also be an increase in volume of trains, offering more choice on times of travel and more direct routes, as Crossrail, HS2 and investment in the North of England open access to more routes and make journeys shorter. Alongside this we will begin to view rail travel in Europe as an attractive alternative to air, as it becomes an easier and cheaper option. The next 10 years will be an exciting time for rail and everyone at Trainline is excited to be playing a part in helping customers take advantage of the smarter travel opportunities that rail will offer.
SW: And finally, what’s your favourite rail journey?
BH: My favourite journey is from Berwick-upon-Tweed (whose Royal Border Bridge is pictured below) to Edinburgh along the east coast. Two main reasons; firstly, it is a stunningly beautiful journey as you look out across the North Sea. Secondly, for me it’s the part of the journey which physically and emotionally takes me home; the joy and anticipation of returning to your loved ones is something you can savour on a rail journey in a way that car and air travel are not able to match. The ability to relax, enjoy the scenery and anticipate the weekend ahead makes rail travel, especially on this route, a wonderful experience.
SW: Thanks very much Bill!
5 minutes with… You?
Each Friday the team here at SmartRail World will bring you a great new 5 minutes with... interview. This fun, fast-paced feature will help you get to know more about personalities across the industry, their ideas and experiences and of course their own favourite rail journey! Want to take part? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Next week's 5 minutes with is : Shyam Kannan, Managing Director of Planning, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)