Once a synonym for punctuality and unprecedented reliability, the German railway system lost its image. The trains are often late or even get cancelled, the prices increase every year. Germans got impatient and reformed their public transportation regulations. As a result, a textbook example of a natural monopoly became a playing field for young startups.
Today I take something special – a FlixTrain – from Frankfurt am Main to Berlin. The train looks very similar to older models of German Intercity trains. The speed is about the same – around 200kmh. The prices start from 9.99EUR. I was less lucky and got my ticket for 29 EUR which is still more than 3 times cheaper than the same trip with Deutsche Bahn. I was allowed to take only one bag on board. Quite similar to Ryanair or EasyJet, additional luggage pieces have to be paid extra. With free WIFI, no seat numbers and very young customer base, FlixTrain is positioned as a democratic and modern alternative to Deutsche Bahn. By the way, you can find Flixtrain on Deutsche Bahn’s site in the schedule, but can’t buy tickets there. They can be ordered here: Flixtrain
Five years after the launch of the FlixBus in Germany, FlixMobility celebrates its premiere on the rail. From 24 March, the first FlixTrain runs regularly between Hamburg – Essen – Düsseldorf – Cologne. Starting from mid-April 2018, green trains run between Stuttgart – Frankfurt – Hanover – Berlin. In total, 28 destinations in five German states are connected via FlixTrain.
André Schwämmlein is a founder and CEO of FlixMobility – the company behind the brand names Flixbus and Flixtrain. He comments:
“Our concept for success is the combination of tech startup and traditional transport company. As with FlixBus, we therefore also rely on cooperation with classic railway companies for FlixTrain. Quality from experience meets digitization and data-driven innovation. The customer benefits from a strong offer and an attractive product – online and offline”.
As briefly mentioned by André, FlixMobility didn’t buy brand new trains and doesn’t operate them entirely on their own. Here starts the most interesting part of FlixTrain story, i.e. the reincarnation of Locomore.
Locomore GmbH & Co. KG was the first German private railway passenger company that offered trips from Stuttgart to Berlin. It was headquartered in Berlin and was financed to a large extent by a crowdsourcing campaign. In May 2017, the company filed for insolvency in district court and operations were suspended. In August 2017, the Czech train operator LEO Express acquired some Locomore assets including its leased rolling stock and the majority of the staff and relaunched the service with FlixTrain that leverages marketing, ticket distribution and customer service of their FlixBus business.
“We are convinced that the FlixBus platform will attract the necessary number of customers in order to ensure a sustainable operation of the Locomore routes even at low ticket prices’, said FlixBus founder and Managing Director André Schwämmlein. ‘At the same time, we benefit from intermodal integration into our long-distance network of new target groups for the Flixbuses.’ FlixBus has established FlixTrain GmbH to manage its relationships with rail operators including LEO Express, Austria’s Westbahn and Köln transport operator KVB.” – RailwayGazette
With aggressive marketing campaigns, broad customer base and competitive prices FlixTrain has good chances to become Deutsche Bahn’s rival at least on some routes. In the meanwhile, I am enjoying the trip and the view from my window.