This year has seen some of the company’s biggest and most exciting changes, when the ‘rebranding’ word became the most used across all our work platforms. And the year isn’t even over yet.
For a company that we started from scratch in 2012, growing from strength to strength, it sometimes feels as if we say every year that it has been an annus mirabilis, with a lot of hard work from every department to rebrand Loco2 website and apps to Rail Europe. Here are some of 2019’s highlights:
The New Year gets off to a start with our new CEO, Dâu-Khôi Nguyen, in place working out of Rail Europe's headquarters in Paris. Khôi’s vast experience as an international business leader includes roles as Director of Electronics at Amazon and Chief Digital Officer at IPH. We welcome him on board, literally, as he is also Chairman of our board.
We integrate with Belgian rail operator SNCB, meaning that our customers can now travel throughout the country, not just to Brussels on the ever popular Eurostar route. In addition, Austrian train operator ÖBB gives us access to the Railjet and Nightjet services in February which, for those who know how brilliant it is to travel through Europe under the stars, was a dream come true. Read more in our Travel in Austria by train blog.
Introduction of our Referral programme, rewarding loyal customers who spread the word about us. The scheme gives customers £5 off train travel for each friend they recommend. Read more here.
In a spring cleaning sort of way, we complete quite a few design tweaks to our desktop and app. We de-cluttered, spruced up a few colours and tidied up some fonts and shook out a few cobwebs.
As the snows melted up near the Arctic circle, one of our Travel Geeks who has been working for the company remotely in Alaska for six years moves to London. If you chat with Catherine on our customer support network, know that she made quite a journey to get here. It’s great to have her on site at last.
With two full time writers on board now we hit the 200 inspirational blogs mark on our site, and growing. See all our blogs here. Our most highly read ones are ‘How to get cheap tickets’, ‘Accessible Travel’, ‘Sleeper Trains’ and ‘Walking Trails by train in UK’ and ‘France’.
Organisational changes are afoot, with Rail Europe, the international powerhouse of e-voyageurs SNCF, revealing departmental shifts and shufflings ahead. A lot of Eurostar trips were taken to attend meetings with big white boards, extensive spreadsheets and copious Post-it notes, as Loco2 and Rail Europe start the process of working out how best to join forces further down the road.
One of the biggest technical developments on our site was the introduction of Pricehack tickets in Great Britain, our name for split tickets. Although available on other niche websites, ours is a state-of-the-art facility, making bargain tickets accessible to the mass market. It has proved to be a huge success, widely praised in the traditional media and on social media by our happy travelling customers. Read more in our blog here as well as two examples of many media pieces: one in the mainstream consumer media, The Independent and another in the industry’s Railway Technology.
We also introduced some significant improvements to user facility aspects of our website and app during this transformation period. This way customers can clearly see when Pricehack fares are available but also have improved visibility of the train operator, travel time, fares and fare conditions. So much product and tech team work has gone into all of these changes, and bravo to them all.
We led our first focus group, calling out to our customers on social media and via our newsletters to come share their views on what we do well, or not so well. Hosted in our office in Old Street and also via Google Hangouts for those who couldn’t come in person, we discussed everyone’s thoughts around the forthcoming rebranding from Loco2 to Rail Europe. Thanks to everyone who attended.
We go public and announce our impending rebrand to Rail Europe, announcing plans via our weekly newsletter, a blog, a press release to the media and on social media. We chose to announce it a few months in advance to give customers a chance to ponder, post or praise. No panic needed though. As we’ve said all along, we are not going - we are growing.
This was a ‘tough love’ decision and not one that any of us wanted to make, but sometimes needs must. On 17 September we announced the introduction of booking fees on international journeys over the value of £15, $15 or €15. Read more here.
All heads are down to prepare for the 6 November rebrand. The tech team hold an Erasmus Meetup day in London at the British Library to have face-to-face meetings and group presentations about visions and projects for the year ahead.
Bravo to everyone involved in the massive project that has filled our Trello Board, conversations, Slack posts and email inboxes, meeting times, coffee chats and lunchtime get togethers: Loco2 website and apps rebrand to Rail Europe. After a lot of testing and tweaking, scheduling and sweating, the morning of 6 November we became Rail Europe. After an engagement period of a few months, we are glad to announce that the marriage of train lovers Loco2 and Rail Europe went smoothly, both parties celebrated and now look forward to a happy future as one. Read more.
As well as adjusting to our new titles, logos and branding, we get on with the important business of helping people organise their train trips. December is the month where train timetables change, and new routes or services are announced. We are particularly excited about the revival of sleeper trains in Europe, with a long-awaited service between Brussels and Vienna. Leaving Brussels at 18.04 and arriving in Vienna 08.27, this new service starts 20 January, Mondays and Thursdays but available on our site from this month, thanks to lots of work from our Christmas tech elves. Another Austrian newbie for December is between Vienna and Bolzano, a new route that takes you through the Alpine Brenner Pass, Salzburg and Innsbruck to the South Tyrolean capital. And one beautiful route this is too. Austria is definitely one to watch for 2020 in terms of becoming a rail hub that just keeps giving.
We also enjoyed sharing in the 25th anniversary celebrations of Eurostar this month at London's Savoy Hotel. Eurostar is central to so many of our customers' journeys and it was great to hear their CEO Mike Cooper reflect on the company's journey over 25 years and about plans to help grow sustainable transport in the future.
Travel green: calculating your carbon savings
Travelling by train is a great way to make your travel greener. We've added a carbon calculator to our booking tool to show you how much you'll save by going by rail.