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Campus Party Europe: Kate Andrews of LoCo2

Posted by Natalie in Events - 22 August 2012

For ‘the world’s biggest tech festival’, Campus Party Europe has already had a surprising number of ‘technical issues’ to contend with. A confusing website twinned with an equally baffling registration system meant we were kept queueing for an hour last night just trying to get in to see Hard Hob play the opening ceremony (which I unfortunately ended up missing).

Things seemed to be running smoother this morning, however, as I settled down to my first talk of the festival by Kate Andrews from LoCo2. I blogged about LoCo2’s beta site back in March 2011 and have been watching the development of the business with interest ever since, so was excited to find out how things were going and finally put a face to a name.

LoCo2’s ultimate goal is simple – to make trains as easy to book as flights. According to Kate, there are three factors that people take into consideration when booking travel: price, length of journey, and ease of booking. The business – owned by Kate and her brother Jamie – focuses on the latter and works backwards from there: a smooth and comprehensive booking website allows users to find their most suitable route and the best price.

It all sounds pretty simple so far. If Skyscanner can do it for flights and Direct Ferries for boat journeys, why isn’t there already the equivalent for trains? Apparently, it’s all a matter of data. More to the point, it’s about getting train companies to share this data so that LoCo2 can provide a consolidated, user-friendly pan-European train booking service.

Unfortunately, each national train provider has built and run their timetable and booking system independently, and moreover, they are tentative about sharing it. LoCo2’s challenge is to convince these companies – and rightly so – that working together will bring more ticket sales to all parties, rather than divert or divide profits. Eurostar, for example, has not only taken 80% of the market share in travel between London, Brussels and Paris, but also actually increased the market.

Then there’s the environmental benefits of travelling by train, of which 80% in Europe are now electric. As more countries follow the lead of Scandinavia and switch to renewable energy sources, train travel will only become more environmentally friendly. Plus, as I’ve long maintained, it’s a lot more fun!

It was a breath of fresh air to hear Kate speak about these issues, as I find myself having the same conversation with people who are already sold on the idea of slow travel, but stumble once they start looking to book. (Apparently only 2% of people fail to make a flight booking, compared with 67% for trains). I often end up offering to do the painstaking research on behalf of others, but this of course is no solution. The answer, in 2012, is surely technological and, ideally, instantaneous. That’s why I’m glad LoCo2 are taking on the challenge and, it seems, – slowly but surely – conquering it.

LoCo2′s Off The Rails hack day takes place in London on 13th October.

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