Pan-European Rail Travel Booking Service, Loco2, Gets Renfe On Board For Full Spanish Coverage

Pan-European train travel booking startup, Loco2, will add another chunk of coverage to its website tomorrow, when a partnership with Spanish state-owned rail carrier Renfe goes live — enabling users to book any Spanish rail tickets via the service and print them at home.

This also applies to advanced discount fares, known as Turista Promo, supporting potential ticket discounts of up to 70%.

Prior to the partnership, some Spanish rail journeys were already bookable via Loco2 but only as postal tickets and at higher prices.  “This makes an extra 1,605 stations fully bookable on Loco2, unlocking Europe’s largest high-speed rail network (1,400km),” says Loco2 co-founder Jamie Andrews.

Loco2 was started back in 2006, but the business of hammering out agreements with rail operators to get access to booking systems has been a work of years. The situation is gradually improving, helped by EC regulation aimed at opening up the market — ergo, more startup businesses are cropping up to tackle the problem of making it easier and cheaper for people who want to travel across European borders to do so.

Loco2 exclusively focuses on rail travel, having an eco-travel ethos — its name is shorthand for ‘low CO2’ —  but there are multiple startups applying the same sort of single ticket booking website approach to multiple modes of travel (i.e. not just rail travel), such as GoEuro, fromAtoB and Wanderio, to name three.

Loco2 continues to push its ‘ride only on rails’ approach. Last November it integrated with the U.K.’s central booking system for all train operators — meaning U.K. users could book tickets for rail journeys into continental Europe starting from their local train station.

With the Renfe partnership it says it can now sell train tickets for journeys in “roughly a dozen countries” in Europe — albeit, Andrews concedes it still has “very limited coverage” in some of those countries, such as Poland, with only major routes covered and a requirement for tickets to be posted to users not print-at-home. 

It terms of comprehensive coverage, Loco2’s tally is four European countries’ rail networks. “We now offer comprehensive coverage for the U.K., France, Germany and Spain (our closest rival is CapitaineTrain, which currently offers just France and Germany),” he adds.

Adding Spain — a popular European tourist destination — to its roster should obviously help it to continue growing traffic.

Compared to the same time (February) last year, Andrews tells TechCrunch it’s seen an increase in traffic of around 380% — using an annual monthly comparative measure to correct for the inevitable seasonality of travel.

Next up, he says it’s planning to improve its coverage in Belgium and the Netherlands — “to better service popular routes such as London-Amsterdam”.

“We’re also working on improving the timetable data returned in search results so that sophisticated pan-European itineraries (e.g. London-Moscow) can be served in search results even if we’re not capable of selling tickets for such routes immediately,” he adds.

As it picks up speed on the coverage front, Loco2 also just closed another angel round — bringing its total funding to date to £1 million — and appointed board member, Vimal Khosla, as a non-executive director.

The U.K. startup had previously raised a seed from low carbon traveller Ed Gillespie, back in 2009, and also secured angel investment via the Angel Investment Network in 2011.