Industrial giant behind Bombardier trains plans to use film streaming and food ordering apps to lure passengers back to the railways
The industrial giant behind Bombardier trains plans to use film streaming and food ordering apps to lure passengers back to the railways, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Alstom UK, which recently bought the Bombardier Transportation rail business for £4.9billion from its Canadian parent, is eyeing acquisitions of firms developing content and apps for passengers.
The company already supplies trains for South Western and London Overground and hopes the move will boost rail travel after the pandemic and help it win more contracts.
High tech: Film streaming and food ordering apps will attempt to lure passengers back to the railways
In his first newspaper interview since the takeover, Nick Crossfield told the MoS he wants to attract leisure travellers to make up for fewer commuters, who are expected to use trains less as businesses allow staff to work from home more often when life returns to normal.
Crossfield said: ‘We’re not going to fill all of that gap and we need to look at how do we make that journey much more attractive to the non-business travelling public and Covid has crystalised that question.
‘We think the leisure market and staycations will be much more important than in the past. The train needs to be a more attractive environment to support that leisure business.’
Crossfield said he is on the hunt for content production firms ‘or businesses that specialise in taking existing content from the big publishing groups and packaging that for systems that you see on trains’.
He added: ‘People need internet access for Netflix, Amazon, to do their shopping and browsing in exactly the same way as they would at home. We’re being driven into some of these newer technologies and sectors that are going to change the type of business we are.’
Crossfield said he was moving from hiring for ‘heavy engineering’ roles to experts in software and AI. The push builds on the 2016 acquisition of tech hardware supplier Nomad Digital to ramp up internet connectivity on its trains. Alstom is also interested in tech that allows passengers to manage their doorto-door journey through an app, as well as requesting food in advance.
Giant: Alstom employs 75,000 and the takeover makes Bombardier’s Derby plant the single largest factory in its global network
Crossfield said: ‘You could order your food ahead of getting on the train. You could say, ‘I’m in carriage 4, seat 16b on the 14.20 out of Paddington and I want my egg and cress sandwich at 15.45 please with my latte.’ It’s that sort of thing.’ He hopes the added services will help to win big supply contracts. Bombardier – founded by Canadian inventor Joseph-Armand Bombardier in 1907 – has been rebranded Alstom and is currently building Aventra electric trains for use on London’s Crossrail and Overground networks.
French giant Alstom, worth €16billion, employs 75,000 and the takeover makes Bombardier’s Derby plant the single largest factory in its global network.
Crossfield said developing hydrogen-powered trains was a key part of his strategy to de-carbonise the business. Alstom and partner Eversholt Rail Group are discussing plans to run the converted hydrogen trains on a railway in the North East with the Government.
He said: ‘We would like to see hydrogen trains coming into operation in the UK in 2023-24 and that’s eminently possible. It’s a quieter, cleaner and an easier train to maintain than conventional diesel.’
Crossfield said Alstom had put £400million of working capital into the UK business since the takeover of Bombardier Transportation, which made a loss of £57million in its 2019 accounts.
The firm has begun production of monorail cars for the Egyptian capital Cairo – the first export of British-built trains for 13 years.