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Trainline ‘has strong hand’ for government rail ticketing contract, CEO Jody Ford says

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Trainline is eyeing aggressive European expansion, with hopes to capitalise on increased competition on key rail routes in Spain and France.  (Trainline plc)
Trainline is eyeing aggressive European expansion, with hopes to capitalise on increased competition on key rail routes in Spain and France. (Trainline plc)

Trainline CEO Jody Ford is confident the rail ticket app stands a good chance of being awarded the contract to run the government’s proposed centralised ticketing system for rail travel.

Ford said: “We don’t know what that future platform may look like [but] we have a strong position which relates to the scale at which we operate.

“We think we have a strong hand to play here...there’ll be a lot of competition there so we’re waiting and ready for when that happens.”

Under transport secretary Grant Shapp’s plan for the future of UK rail travel, a central governing body called Great British Railways will replace existing rail franchises, complete with its own GBR-branded ticketing platform.

The formal procurement process for the contract to operate the platform is yet to begin, though Trainline has been involved in pre-procurement discussions.

The government’s market intervention has raised fears about the future of Trainline. Shares slumped by a third when the plans were announced last May and have not recovered.

Ford’s comments came as Trainline signalled a return to pre-pandemic performance. Ticket sales in the year to February 2022 more than trebled to £2.5 billion, while revenue topped £180 million and debts fell by £150 million.

Sales in the third quarter of 2021 reached 86% of pre-pandemic levels, while fourth quarter international sales were106% of pre-pandemic levels.

“Our strong performance and positive outlook for next year reflects our relentless focus on supporting the rail industry’s recovery,” Ford said.

Trainline recorded an operating loss of £10 million last year but that was down from £100 million in 2020.

Shares rose 5.9% in early trading.

The company is eyeing aggressive European expansion, with hopes to capitalise on increased competition on key rail routes in Spain and France by offering price comparisons between different services.

International sales of £418 million accounted for 17% of the company’s revenues in the year to February 2022, an increase of 183 million on the previous year.

“We’re a UK company but we’ve built a Milan office and a Barcelona office,” Ford said.