Pan-European Rail Travel Startup Loco2 Adds Italy’s Trenitalia

No one is going to take an Uber from London to Naples. And, fortunately, they don’t have to. U.K.-based pan-European train travel startup Loco2 has integrated its sixth European rail booking system, signing up the Italian national rail operator Trenitalia. The integration will go public on March 3 but registered users of Loco2 can book tickets from today.

Signing up Italy’s state-owned rail operator slots in a major piece of Loco2’s coverage of the main markets in Western Europe. It says it now has majority of the European train network covered (it pegs its coverage at 73 per cent “based on PhoCusWright figures”).

Loco2, which was founded back in 2006 — out of frustration with the European ticket booking status quo which required train travelers to navigate multiple booking systems if they wanted to criss-cross the region by rail — lets Europe’s train travelers find and book tickets to destinations in different countries from its single platform. So it takes the strain out of booking tickets from multiple train operators.

It has now integrated the following regional train operator booking systems:

Italy has two rail operators, with Trenitalia being the state-owned operator. Loco2 had previously added the newer private operator Italo, which serves some routes in the country, so is now in a position to offer comprehensive results for Italian rail travel — avoiding the need for ticket buyers to cross-reference tickets from two websites.

“[Trenitalia] consolidates our unique position in the market,” says co-founder Jamie Andrews. “We now have a total of six booking system integrations under our belt (our closest rivals either have fewer integrations, or are missing the geographically crucial piece of the puzzle — SNCF in France).

“We have made all this progress despite not having taken VC funding (unlike competitors CapitaineTrain and SilverRail),” he adds.

While Loco2 focuses purely on train travel other startups have been pushing into the multimodal travel space, such as Rome2Rio and GoEuro. Last month Loco2 secured a partnership with Rome2Rio, highlighting another route for the company to grow its business.

“We aren’t concerned about the proliferation of multimodal startups because we believe they represent an opportunity for us to power the rail part of their offering,” says Andrews. “We think companies who attempt to provide all modes of transport with their own tech will spread themselves too thin and provide a poor customer experience, with amateur customer support etc.”

According to Andrews, Loco2 had more than 1 million users last year, and its annual turnover was up 630% between 2013 and 2014 — although it’s not yet breaking out any revenues.

“We’ve seen strong growth in the last year… and we’re confident that we can go on and do great things in 2015 now that our coverage of Western Europe is largely complete. We intend finally to move into properly mobile (our strategy has always been to focus on the back-end integrations first) as well as continue filling the remaining gaps in our European coverage,” he adds.

As well as building mobile apps, the team is continuing with negotiations to keep expanding its booking system integrations. “The next booking integration is not yet confirmed because we’re in the middle of negotiations with various operators,” he says.

Although it hasn’t taken VC backing, Loco2 has raised around £1 million in seed funding from various business angels over the years, including low carbon traveller Ed Gillespie, and via the Angel Investment Network.