Crowd­funded train ser­vice takes on Ger­man rail gi­ant

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

With a sin­gle 1970s train in or­ange liv­ery and a lit­tle crowd­fund­ing help, a plucky Ber­lin start-up is chal­leng­ing the might of Ger­many’s state rail op­er­a­tor, Deutsche Bahn. At 6:20 am yes­ter­day, 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 en­vi­ron­men­tally-con­scious 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 said. Lo­co­more, which bills it­self as the world’s first crowd­funded train line, owes its start-up 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. Many of the con­trib­u­tors bought vouch­ers that can now be traded for tick­ets, as well as sou­venirs such as mugs and T-shirts in the firm’s dis­tinc­tive or­ange hue-a nod to the vin­tage ori­gins of Lo­co­more’s ren­o­vated car­riages from the 1970s.

Pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies

The 600-kilo­me­tre 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 for a Stuttgart-Ber­lin ride in Jan­uary, com­pared with 115.90 eu­ros on Deutsche Bahn-al­though the lat­ter’s journey is roughly an hour shorter, and it of­fers prices as low as 29 eu­ros for trav­ellers 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 was lib­er­alised in 1994 but re­mains dom­i­nated by Deutsche Bahn, which car­ries more than 5.5 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a day in Ger­many alone and ac­counts for 99 per­cent of all long-dis­tance rail jour­neys. The state firm has more com­peti­tors on the re­gional trans­port net­works, where its mar­ket share falls to 72 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to Mathias Lahrmann of the BSL trans­porta­tion con­sult­ing agency. Lo­co­more is not the first pri­vate com­pany to try to go up against the rail op­er­a­tor, but those ef­forts have gained lit­tle trac­tion. — AFP

BER­LIN: A com­part­ment bear­ing the logo of Ger­man open-ac­cess rail­way op­er­a­tor Lo­co­more is on dis­play at In­no­trans - the rail­way in­dus­try’s largest trade fair, in Ber­lin. Lo­co­more is of­fer­ing a daily con­nec­tion link­ing Ber­lin to Stuttgart via Han­nover and Frank­furt. — AFP

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