Train travel in Germany is ubiquitous, fast and efficient. Deutsche Bahn, carries more than 5.5 million passengers a day in Germany alone and accounts for 99 percent of all long-distance rail journeys. As such, it is difficult to imagine a small crowdfunded startup challenging Deutsche Bahn at its own game. Despite this, Germany’s newest open-access train operator, Locomore, recently launched its first service linking Stuttgart, Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Hannover and Berlin.
Even more amazingly, the initiave was made possible by about 1300 people through crowdfunding, and it is not difficult to believe the claim by Locomore that it is the world’s first crowdfunded railway company.
“We now want as many people as possible to board our new long-distance train service, and thereby together make Locomore a success,” says Mr Derek Ladewig, Locomore’s founder, main shareholder, and managing director.
Locomore’s daily service, which is operated by a 200km/h locomotive, takes around 6h 45min to travel from Stuttgart to Berlin Main Station compared with 5h 35min by an ICE train operated by Deutsche Bahn. However, Locomore says it expects to carry a lot of passengers between intermediate stations and to attract a wide range of people including students due to its attractive fares.
Locomore charges €22 – €65 for a single ticket from Stuttgart to Berlin depending on the day of the week, compared with Deutsche Bahn’s lowest second-class fare €115.90 or €72.50 with a Bahncard 50 discount card and it offers prices as low as €29 for travellers willing to change trains once or twice.
Five levels of travel are offered on Locomore: basic, quiet, themed, and business, in either traditional compartments or open cars fitted with leather seats. Wi-Fi is available and refreshments are served. Packages are also available in the business compartments which include snacks and drinks.
The German rail sector was liberalised in 1994 but remains dominated by Deutsche Bahn. There are no state subsidies available, and prospective operators are expected to reserve their slots years in advance as well as source their own trains. To give itself maximum flexibility, Locomore has opted to rent its trains and drivers from other companies while employing its own on-board personnel and handling ticket sales.