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Summary:

No-one has yet managed to take the complexity out of searching for and booking journeys across multiple modes of transport and across European borders. But GoEuro is taking a shot, starting with the UK and Germany.

GoEuro

GoEuro is one of a handful of companies that are trying to make multi-modal travel search – that is, being able to search at once across modes of transport including air, rail, bus and car – a reality. What’s more, like fellow Berlin startup Waymate, GoEuro is trying to accomplish this feat across national borders. The complexity of the data involved is staggering, not to mention the difficulty of acquiring that data in the first place.

But GoEuro is doing it. The service has now launched – right now it’s optimized for those in the U.K. and Germany, but the goal is to make GoEuro’s coverage as comprehensive as its name suggests.

Will it extend beyond Europe? According to GoEuro CEO Naren Shaam, the company is open to licensing its technology to operations in Asia and South America. The U.S. market is an unlikely prospect, though – that country simply doesn’t have a well-enough-established bus and train network for GoEuro’s technology to have an impact.

Parameters

So, what’s in GoEuro’s box? As mentioned above, you can search across multiple modes of transport in one go, with the results being ranked according to criteria of your choosing: speed, cost and convenience, with departure and arrival times “in the pipeline” according to Shaam. It’s all a bit like Kayak or Skyscanner, only for more than just flights.

Naren ShaamIncidentally, the cost of the car journey is based on GoEuro’s estimate of fuel expenditure and so on, and clicking on that option also brings up affiliate links for the major car rental firms. Throughout GoEuro’s service, the emphasis is on sending customers to the transport operators’ websites to make final bookings. Waymate is trying to handle all bookings on its own site – a more ambitious goal, but one that makes it much harder to get the operators on board.

Not just a data issue

And getting them on board is a big deal – wrangling disparate data is one thing, but partnerships constitute the other side of the coin. Shaam told me the train companies, which are largely monopolies in Europe, were the worst. “We have enough train companies in our system now, but as a young entrepreneur when you have zero train companies, that’s when they’re the hardest to get,” he said.

Data from train companies is also much more complex than that for air routes – GoEuro’s systems have to have up-to-the-minute information relating to 25 airports, but also for 9,000 train stations… and that’s just for the UK and Germany. The complexity of bringing all that data onto a single platform is why, Shaam noted, GoEuro was lucky to have raised $4 million in its seed round a few months back.

With Waymate also having launched last month, we now have two test cases to watch in this multi-modal booking space. No-one has managed to pull it off before, but a success story would be a huge win for consumers. Perhaps, with data complexity becoming more manageable these days, it’s an idea whose time has come.

  1. Rana Walker-Wastyn Wednesday, May 29, 2013

    Check out SilverRail – they are doing just that with trains across Europe and selling via existing travel channels.

    1. The goal with GoEuro is to be able to see more that just trains, but to include buses and air as well. And to show you train and air combinations from the closest railway station.

      SilverRail are doing a nice job, but really in a different space.

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