Local railroad to offer new services

By Mary Rees

In an effort to boost declining ticket sales, agency officials announced that the St Petersburg Railroad Agency now offers access to the European START-AMADEUS system and will be opening up branches in outlying areas of the city early in 1996. The additional services are part of a larger effort to provide railroad passengers with what they want, according to Marina Atanova, agency press officer.

Through the START-AMADEUS system, customers can make plane and hotel reservations and order a rental car at their destination.

Travelers request a certain price range, and the agency receives a small percentage as commission. To provide services for foreign visitors, agents at the main office on the Griboedov Canal speak English or German as well as Russian, according to Vladimir Pashkevich, head of the agency. The agency's marketing research has identified two main groups of customers, business travelers and those traveling before and after holidays, according to Ms Atanova.

The railroad will provide more "platskartny" cars at holiday time to handle the larger seasonal demand. In "platskartny" cars the 56 bunks are not separated into coupes, and tickets are therefore less expensive.

Business customers travel frequently to Moscow, so more spaces for them will be provided, Ms Atanova added. Mr Pashkevich added that plans for cars specially equipped with fax machines, computers and telephones are also in the works.

The agency said it wanted to make buying tickets through their agents more convenient.

"We need to take our services to the periphery, to the bedroom communities of St. Petersburg," Mr Pashkevich said. He said potential customers could spend an hour or more each way coming downtown.

Ms Atanova said at least one new branch, to be located in the Krasnoselsky region, should open in early February.

For a month now the agency has been accepting EuroCard, Mastercard and Karta Baltika for payment; Mr Pashkevich said this has been especially popular among foreigners.

The agency has also initiated an express service that will deliver tickets to the customer's home within two hours.

© 1995 St Petersburg Press

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