Crowdfunded train service takes on giant of the railway
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.