Crowd­funded train ser­vice takes on gi­ant of the rail­way

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Frank­furt, Ger­many

With a sin­gle 1970s train in orange liv­ery and a lit­tle crowd­fund­ing help, a plucky Ber­lin startup is chal­leng­ing the might of Ger­many’s state rail operator, Deutsche Bahn.

At 6:20 am on Wed­nes­day, the first Lo­co­more train will leave Stuttgart in Ger­many’s south­west, pass through Frank­furt and Hanover and pull into Ber­lin, its fi­nal desti­na­tion, some six and a half hours later.

With just one re­turn ser­vice a day to start with, com­pared to the over 700 daily long-dis­tance jour­neys run by Deutsche Bahn, Lo­co­more founder and di­rec­tor Derek Ladewig knows he barely qual­i­fies as a ri­val.

But he is hop­ing to win over Deutsche Bahn cus­tomers with bud­get ticket prices and lure en­vi­ron­men­tal­ly­con­scious trav­el­ers from more pol­lut­ing forms of trans­port.

“We are of­fer­ing a new ser­vice to com­pete with the car, the plane, the long-dis­tance bus as well as Deutsche Bahn,” Ladewig told AFP.

Lo­co­more, which bills it­self as the world’s first crowd­funded train line, owes its startup cap­i­tal en­tirely to on­line sup­port­ers who chipped in more than 600,000 eu­ros ($640,000) in less than a year to get the pro­ject on the rails.

The 600-kilo­me­ter trip from Stuttgart to Ber­lin takes slightly longer than with Deutsche Bahn, but Lo­co­more hopes to make up for that by promis­ing its ticket prices will al­ways be cheaper than those of its com­peti­tor.

By com­par­i­son, Lo­co­more charges 22 eu­ros ($23.40) for a Stuttgart-Ber­lin ride in Jan­uary, com­pared with 115.90 eu­ros ($123.33) on Deutsche Bahn — al­though the lat­ter’s jour­ney is roughly an hour shorter, and it of­fers prices as low as 29 eu­ros for trav­el­ers will­ing to change trains once or twice.

Karl-Peter Nau­mann, a spokesman for the pas­sen­ger group Pro Bahn, wel­comed the new player on the block and said the ser­vice should prove pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies, who will be of­fered their own com­part­ments, and with young peo­ple.

The coun­try’s rail sec­tor is dom­i­nated by Deutsche Bahn, which ac­counts for 99 per­cent of all long-dis­tance rail jour­neys.

But with more than 10,000 tick­ets al­ready sold and its trains promis­ing to be “pretty full” over the com­ing week­ends, Lo­co­more’s Ladewig is bank­ing on the up­com­ing Christ­mas hol­i­days to keep his am­bi­tious plans on track.

We are of­fer­ing a new ser­vice to com­pete with the car, the plane ... as well as Deutsche Bahn.” Derek Ladewig, Lo­co­more founder price of a Lo­co­more ticket from Stuttgart to Ber­lin, which is more than five times cheaper than Deutsche Bahn.

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