Screen Shot 2013-01-24 at 18.38.47I’ve followed the development of Loco2 for some time – their aim is a very noble one: to make booking of international rail tickets in Europe as simple and seamless as possible. I’ve met the brother and sister behind the site, Kate and Jamie Andrews, a few times, and they are fun and determined people. The problem for me has been that I have – until now – never really been able to use their site as my rail travel is more often through Germany than it is through France, and until yesterday, they did not partner with Deutsche Bahn.

So how does the new Loco2, with both SNCF and Deutsche Bahn data shape up?

The first impression – as before with Loco2 – is a good one. The site is smoothly designed – the UI and whole visual identity is much better than the offer from any railway firm directly. I then put the site through its paces with 3 test journeys: London – Berlin, Bruxelles – Nürnberg, and Paris – Stuttgart. All tests were for 13th March (i.e. 6 weeks or so from now), and for single journeys, leaving in the morning.

1. London – Berlin

Screen Shot 2013-01-24 at 18.27.45The Loco2 site gave me – correctly – the three morning departures from London. The 0650 and 1058 trains involve changes onto ICE trains in Brussels, while the 0858 train connects with a Thalys. The good news here is that Loco2 is good at drawing in all the tickets from multiple operators – making the same search on DB’s website only gives a price for the 0650 and 1058 trains, while no other website can give a combined price for the 0858 departure.

The less good news is the prices that are offered. The 0650 train is just €99 (excluding reservations) on the DB site – Loco2’s £172.50 is some way off. The Loco2 and DB prices for the 1058 train are identical – €159. For the 0858 train, each part is as follows: £39 ( + €25 (Thalys) + €69 (DB) = £115.55. This could be due to different types of fares being offered, but for 2 of the 3 connections Loco2 did not offer the best price.

[UPDATE 25.1.2013] – seems there was some temporary error when I tried this, as it now gives me €99 for the 0650 train, as it should (and Kate confirms this in the comments below)

2. Bruxelles – Nürnberg

Screen Shot 2013-01-24 at 18.27.26For this connection, as for London – Berlin, the range of connections offered by Loco2 is very good, and they all have a price. While DB can offer a through price for connections using an ICE between Bruxelles and Germany, it cannot do so when a Thalys is used. Loco2 has nailed this – all connections have a price.

However here too Loco2’s prices are not always the best – the prices shown with a € and a £ price above are all the same as DB’s prices, but the prices just shown in £ that draw on Thalys prices (presumably from Rail Europe) then use excessively expensive connections through into Germany (see the pop-out for the 0728 train shown). A Thalys + a DB Sparpreis would be the cheapest option, but is not offered by Loco2, even when there is a Sparpreis on the DB website.

3. Paris – StuttgartScreen Shot 2013-01-24 at 18.29.03

Perhaps logically, as the route is between France and Germany, it is for this connection between France and Germany that Loco2 really excels. All the prices offered are the most competitive possible, and – as can be seen for the 0725 departure – sometimes the prices offered by SNCF (shown with £) and DB (shown with € too) actually vary – here the SNCF price is the cheaper. For this route Loco2 offers an unparalleled service.

4. London – Vienna

Without much hope I tried a London – Vienna connection with Loco2, and this one gives an error. Here Loco2 encounters the DB through Germany problem, where splitting tickets is the only option at the moment. Let’s hope they solve that one too in the medium term…

Anyway, in conclusion, Loco2 has done something that no-one else can do just now – to give prices for through tickets to more or less anywhere covered by SNCF or DB or combinations of both of those. If you’re looking for the simplest way to book international rail tickets then give it a go. If you’re however looking for the cheapest tickets, Loco2 doesn’t nail it – yet.


  1. msma.smg.

    It seems that often doesn’t query both SNCF and DB. For example, try Stockholm to Hamburg on 10 April 2013, departing from Stockholm at 8:21 with a change in Copenhagen and departing from Copenhagen at 15:44. Here, only queries SNCF and shows £211.50. On the other hand, searching for the exact same trains at shows €49.

    I should point out that http://www.bahn requires me to specify “Kopenhagen Hbf” as “Zwischenhalt” and that I want “Direktverbindungen” for both legs. Maybe this is where fails. When booking Swedish trains at, you very often have to use the “Zwischenhalt” option as you will otherwise only get trains the site won’t let you book. Also, won’t send tickets by mail outside the United Kingdom, which is a big problem if you want to serve the international market.

  2. @Kate – the simplest solution, from a technical point of view I imagine, would be to use the timetable information to determine the ticket split. So a Brussels – Nürnberg ticket search would query DB for the whole lot, query Rail Europe for the whole lot, and then DB and Rail Europe for Bruxelles – Köln, and DB (and Rail Europe, presumably, although for this example it wouldn’t help) for Köln – Nürnberg. Then the cheapest combination would be presented…

    (I realised I am probably giving your developers nightmares by proposing this!)

  3. @Jon, yes we can add a ‘split this journey’ tooltip, and perhaps that’s a good interim solution. But I’m sure we can think of something better. It may require a bit more head scratching to come up with a neat solution but I’m pushing to make this one a priority.

  4. @Kate – I hadn’t thought of that, to do the split on your site 🙂 In the meantime could you add a note to this effect? There are some UK train websites that say “could you split this ticket?”

  5. Hi Jon,

    I want to say thanks for your honest assessment. This kind of feedback is absolutely vital for the development of Loco2, and as you know, as a team we value transparency above all else. It’s only by putting the tool through its paces and identifying where we excel and, more importantly, when we can improve, that we’ll identify the priorities that will make the biggest difference to users.

    You’re right in pointing out that tickets in £ are from our connection to Rail Europe, and € from DBahn. Your example from Brussels-Nuremberg is a good one. The ticket you’ve pulled out is wholly from RE, but as you correctly identify, the key would be splitting the ticket to get the Thalys from RE and the Sparpreis from DB. Although we haven’t automated this, it is possible to select the two cheapest legs, put them in your basket and pay in one transaction on Loco2.

    I’ve split this one manually and got Brussels-Cologne (£16), and Cologne to Nuremberg (€39):
    This isn’t ideal as it still requires a manual split ticketing process, but it does mean that the user doesn’t have to go to two sites, or make two payments. The trick for us once the dust settles on our DB launch, is trying to work out how to build this logic into the site.

    In conclusion, we’ll stick at it 🙂


    p.s. I couldn’t replicate your London-Berlin search, I got the 06:50 departure from London for €99 Euros – we should always have the exact same DB London-Berlin results ( Can you try that one again for me?

  6. Railteam is not worth the paper (or, well, locomotive side panels) it’s written on. They were supposed to make a booking system but shelved it, judging it too costly.

  7. R Niall D Martin

    Railteam? Interesting.

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