New open access operator Locomore, which raised its start-up funding of nearly €1 million using online crowdfunding techniques, announced on 11 May that it was filing for insolvency.
The company said that while passenger numbers and revenue had been increasing, they had not been rising quickly enough to enable it to break even. As a result, Locomore’s financial resources have been exhausted, and if new investors are not found the company says it will close completely. It has called in a Berlin-based insolvency administrator to assist with the search.
The news comes after the company had reported promising results for the first few months of operation. From the start of services on the Stuttgart to Berlin route on 14 December 2016 to 6 April 2017, over 70,000 passengers had been carried. Locomore initially offered one train pair a day, but quickly reduced this to three and a half train pairs per week in January, citing maintenance issues for the rolling stock used. The stock, which is owned by German leasing company SRI Rail Invest GmbH, was refurbished specifically for Locomore by Romanian state rail operator CFR at its Grivita Works in Bucharest. The restriction was initially planned to be temporary, with daily services resuming in April, and ticket sales for the period from April were possible via the operator’s website.
In early April Locomore announced it intended to operate five train pairs a week starting from Easter, with Wednesday being the only day not served at all (the train remains in Berlin for maintenance on arrival on Tuesdays until departing south again on Thursday). Daily service with seven train pairs was then planned for eight weeks in 2017 that include nationwide public holidays.
However, Locomore also announced it planned to restrict non-summer season services to weekends. Locomore said it achieved its goal of carrying 1,000 passengers a day many times, mainly on Fridays and Sundays, when its trains are often sold out. Additional non Locomore-liveried coaches were obtained to strengthen weekend services, offering more seats. Locomore said at the time that it planned to break even during the summer, and its decision to restrict services to weekends out of the summer period mirrored that of the other major German open access operator HKX, which has restricted its Koln to Hamburg service to largely operate at weekends only.
Locomore is offering fares that are around €100 less than the DB full fare for the entire Stuttgart to Berlin route (€145 second class), but which at the cheapest advance fare level are actually slightly higher than DB’s (€32 Locomore, €29 DB). A comparison of the two operators over a range of dates shows Locomore normally offering significantly better fares. Locomore also offers a premium ‘business’ fare with free drinks and snacks and more space, as only 50% of the seats in the business compartments are actually sold.
Journey times are similar for most workings, as DB’s ICE services use largely the same route via Frankfurt and Hannover. Whilst capable of significantly higher speeds than the 200km/h rolling stock operated by Locomore, whose trains are powered by 230km/h Hector Rail Siemens-built Eurosprinter locos, on the several high-speed line sections used by both operators the DB ICE services are clearly not timed to take advantage of the speed difference.