How Uber is taking on the likes of Trainline: Taxi app is rolling out train, coach and


In an eye-catching Uber video advertisement, an eager man approaches the driver and gets him to open the window as the train is about to depart.

He shows him his phone for a pick-up to Portsmouth, and the driver, looking slightly nonplussed, confirms that he is indeed heading that way.

‘You can drop me anywhere near the station,’ the customer retorts.

The ad makes up part of a multi-million pound advertising campaign run by the ride-hailing app that has seen billboards pop up across UK railway stations.

It is drawing attention to a service that was quietly launched by the company almost a year ago under Uber Travel.

The cluster of booking facilities, including flights, coach travel and Eurostar, aims to take customers from door to door, covering all parts of their journey using the app.

Uber's rail ticketing feature has been heavily advertised over the last few weeks at rail stations across the UK, drawing attention to a service that was quietly launched by the company almost a year ago as part of Uber Travel

Uber’s rail ticketing feature has been heavily advertised over the last few weeks at rail stations across the UK, drawing attention to a service that was quietly launched by the company almost a year ago as part of Uber Travel

An advertisement for Uber's rail booking feature. The company has seen a change in fortune this year, announcing its first operating profit in August after it had amassed a total of $31.5bn in operating losses since 2014, the first year it revealed details of its finances

An advertisement for Uber’s rail booking feature. The company has seen a change in fortune this year, announcing its first operating profit in August after it had amassed a total of $31.5bn in operating losses since 2014, the first year it revealed details of its finances

Uber has seen a change in fortune this year, announcing its first operating profit in August after it had amassed a total of $31.5bn in operating losses since 2014, the first year it revealed details of its finances.

But it could hardly have picked a more challenging time to enter the market, in a turbulent year that has seen the unions and the government in discussions that have reached boiling point, with walkouts and strikes causing pandemonium for passengers.

The launch of Uber’s train ticketing service followed a pandemic period in which travel ground to a halt.

As the economy reopened, demand for Uber’s ride-booking services rapidly outweighed the number of drivers available. 

The situation was resolved in part by increasing pay and fares and the company now employs more UK drivers than it did before the start of the Covid outbreak.

Uber was seeing a 40 per cent month-on-month growth in terms of train bookings prior to its ad campaign.

Uber makes what it refers to as a negligible amount from each ticket sold, but the the company has made the step into the rail ticketing market as part of its wider plans for expansion

Uber makes what it refers to as a negligible amount from each ticket sold, but the the company has made the step into the rail ticketing market as part of its wider plans for expansion

In an eye-catching video advertisement, an eager man approaches a train driver and gets him to open the window as the train is about to depart. He shows him his phone for a pick-up to Portsmouth, and the driver, looking slightly nonplussed, confirms that he is indeed heading that way

In an eye-catching video advertisement, an eager man approaches a train driver and gets him to open the window as the train is about to depart. He shows him his phone for a pick-up to Portsmouth, and the driver, looking slightly nonplussed, confirms that he is indeed heading that way

By Uber’s own account it is not looking to shake up the rail industry in the same way that its ride-hailing service has done for renting cabs. Indeed, the company notes that the business model for ticketing companies would not allow them to do so.

Digital ticketing and online ticketing make up around 46 per cent of the market nowadays. 

Along with top dog Trainline, there are around 20 train ticketing services in the UK market, all of which take just a five per cent cut of the ticket price, with the other 95 per cent handed to the train company.

The train operators, who collectively hold a large share of the market, also have retail outlets, and the pay as you go service provided by rail operators is also popular in London and the south east. 

Other players in the train ticketing market include the likes of MyTrainTicket and traintickets.com.

But Uber and other companies that provide rail ticketing services are not taking on the rail companies themselves. 

Uber says it is just providing a method of purchasing tickets. It does not have any partnership with the rail companies and it does not have any say in the running of the trains.

Trains, coaches and Eurostar bookings are made through Uber's partnership with Omio, in which they plug their Application Programming Interface (API) into the Uber app

Trains, coaches and Eurostar bookings are made through Uber’s partnership with Omio, in which they plug their Application Programming Interface (API) into the Uber app

An Uber spokesperson said that the company entered this corner of the market as it had noticed that the top ten destinations in the UK for the ride-hailing service are eight train stations and two airports, with these journeys more profitable than short trips across the city for example

An Uber spokesperson said that the company entered this corner of the market as it had noticed that the top ten destinations in the UK for the ride-hailing service are eight train stations and two airports, with these journeys more profitable than short trips across the city for example

The company notes that it took a long time to integrate the train companies’ network into the Uber app

But Uber has not been able to make the jump alone. It has partnered with Berlin-based multimodal travel platform Omio, launched in Germany in 2013, to put together the train booking service as part of Uber Travel.

Uber makes what it refers to as a negligible amount from each ticket sold, but the company has made the step into the rail ticketing market as part of its wider plans for expansion.

A Uber spokesperson told MailOnline that ‘it’s not going to really ever generate much revenue for us, but it’s also extremely low capital investment to do it’.

However, the potential rewards for making a step into the rail market are considerable.

The Uber spokesperson said that the company entered this corner of the market as it had noticed that the top ten destinations in the UK for the ride-hailing service are eight train stations and two airports, with these journeys more profitable than short trips across the city for example.

If people book their train tickets or their flights on the app they are more likely to book the Uber to get to the train station or airport, or so the theory goes. They are also more likely to continue using the app in general.

If people book their train or their flights on Uber they are more likely to book the Uber to get to the train station or airport, or so the theory goes. They are also more likely to continue using the app in general

If people book their train or their flights on Uber they are more likely to book the Uber to get to the train station or airport, or so the theory goes. They are also more likely to continue using the app in general

Uber says it is just providing a method of purchasing a ticket and does not have any partnership with the rail companies, and it does not have any say in the running of the trains

Uber says it is just providing a method of purchasing a ticket and does not have any partnership with the rail companies, and it does not have any say in the running of the trains

The Uber spokesperson added: ‘It’s all about providing passengers with the option to book in one app, because currently you can’t do that. So literally providing somewhere where you can go from door to door, all in one app.

‘It’s not about creating huge amounts of new revenue streams through rail pricing.’

But Uber can hardly be seen as a quiet threat to the key players in the rail ticketing industry, which has seen unsuccessful entries from big names in travel such as Expedia and Skyscanner, having undertaken one of the most daring global expansions of any tech start-up. 

Along with possessing considerable funds to pump out advertisements to the general public, the company is likely to strike fear into hearts of its opponents with its audience of 5 million regular UK ride-hailing users every month, to whom it can promote and market at any point.

Indeed, following the launch of Uber Travel, the company sees its main competitors as tour operators.

Uber is aiming to become a door-to-door, fully integrated travel booking service

Uber is aiming to become a door-to-door, fully integrated travel booking service

Uber has partnered with Berlin-based multimodal travel platform Omio, launched in Germany in 2013, to put together the train booking service as part of Uber Travel

Uber has partnered with Berlin-based multimodal travel platform Omio, launched in Germany in 2013, to put together the train booking service as part of Uber Travel

Train, coach and Eurostar bookings are made through their partnership with Omio, in which they plug their Application Programming Interface (API) into the Uber app. 

Flights are through a similar partnership with Canada-based online travel agency Hopper.

Uber is aiming to become a door-to-door, fully integrated travel booking service.

‘The idea is that it will become the travel super app if you like to go anywhere,’ the company spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Rail Delivery Group, set up in 2011 to provide leadership to Britain’s rail industry, told MailOnline: ‘We’ve worked collaboratively with retailers to increase the number of platforms that customers can use to buy tickets. 

‘Demand for online tickets has grown significantly in recent years with Uber the most recent platform to start providing this function. 

‘There is a lot of competition and innovation in this market, and we welcome the role that online retailers play in promoting rail and making it easier to buy tickets.’



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