The operator of the Southern rail franchise has moved to add a new line to its business, with its first investment beyond trains and buses into a German car sharing company.
Go-Ahead, the FTSE 250 company which runs the Govia Thameslink franchise that includes Southern, has taken a 10pc stake in Frankfurt-based Mobileeee for €300,000 (£264,900).
The German company allows users to book electric cars on an hourly or daily basis and Go-Ahead said it would work with the firm to develop environmentally friendly car-sharing schemes.
Patrick Butcher, Go-Ahead’s finance director, said its decision to back the company made sense because car sharing could help reduce congestion in busy cities and thus help cut emissions. Mr Butcher said research by a UK car sharing firm had shown car club members were twice as likely to use public transport as other travellers.
According to Deloitte, Europe accounts for 50pc of the global car sharing market, while research by Boston Consulting Group predicts the global market will be worth €4.7bn by 2021.
“What we are trying to do is help cities tackle some of the key issues around congestion and transport accessibility,” Mr Butcher said.
“We have incredibly efficient transport with buses and trains but we have what we call ‘last mile issues’ – that being getting people to and from stations in an efficient way.”
Mr Butcher said Mobileeee’s business model was different to some other car sharing companies and that this prompted him to approve the purchase. He said the car-sharing firm worked by securing a so-called tenant for the car, a company or local authority that agreed to fund a vehicle.
“Some other car sharing firms just park their cars on the street and hope someone shows up, which is a little risky,” he said.
Mr Butcher said Go-Ahead’s rail and bus contract bidding team had identified Mobileeee, which uses electric cars, as a potential acquisition target. He added the fact the company used electric cars fitted with Go-Ahead’s green credentials given it runs the largest fleet of electric buses in Europe.
But he put the investment in context by saying the stake in the German firm was tiny compared to the £140m of capital investment the wider group had planned for this year.
The finance director suggested a long-term goal could be to have an integrated system – such as London’s Oyster card – whereby payment for Mobileeee cars and then a bus and train could be paid for using a single method of payment.