German transport company FlixBus has spent the last five years trying to make bus travel sexy again and today announced that it has launched a new version of its service for trains.
Around Europe, the lime-green FlixBus fleet has become ubiquitous thanks to low fares, digital booking, and buses packed with amenities like movies and Wi-Fi. Parent company FlixMobility has now created FlixTrain, which seeks to bring many of those same features to the train industry.
“We looked at trains, and we did our homework in terms of how it works, what its customers are,” said Jochen Engert, FlixBus cofounder and managing director. “And ultimately we believe the train is just a larger bus.”
FlixBus works by partnering with local bus operators and plugging them into the company’s scheduling and ticketing system, in addition to adding branding and services to the environmentally friendly buses. As the bus industry was deregulated across Europe, many buses were operated by small businesses that didn’t have the resources to invest in digital systems and marketing, Engert said.
Germany has deregulated its train system, and other European countries have either already done so or are in the process of considering it. The company will follow a model similar to its bus service by partnering with local train operators, and it is hoping to use its FlixBus brand recognition to drive customers to the new rail service.
There have been private train companies that tried to compete,” Engert said. “They struggled because they couldn’t create brand awareness and couldn’t fill the trains.”
For the moment, FlixTrain is only available in Germany. Official service starts March 24 with a route of Hamburg to Düsseldorf to Cologne. The company’s goal is to have 28 destinations in Germany by the end of April 2018.
The new service comes as FlixBus is preparing for its U.S. launch later this year, likely starting on the West Coast.