I’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
The 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 (Eurostar.com) + €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
For 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.
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.