Blog — Trainline

(Secretly) Get Away for Valentine’s Day

by Betsy Autran, posted 08 February 2017 | Add comment

valentines-day-blog-post-final

We’ve barely had time to recover from the dizzying amounts of champagne we shared over the Christmas and New Year holidays before rushing into the loving and passionate embrace of Valentine’s Day. Yes, it’s here, and you haven’t planned anything yet, have you? No worries, we’re always standing by to give you advice not only for your train tickets but your love life too.

Planning love abroad with a touch of fraud

We recently got an email from a client who demanded to know who had stolen her credit card information and booked train tickets on our website. We take the security of our clients’ data very seriously (plus we love mysteries and cracking down on crime), so we didn’t waste any time investigating this situation. What we discovered is that someone not only swiped her credit card info, but went so far as to hack into her email account and then had the audacity to book a round-trip train journey to Tuscany for her, her husband, and two of their friends!

If you haven’t already guessed what happened here, Mr. Client made a failed attempt to plan a secret holiday for Mrs. Client while using their shared bank card. He not only stole her heart, but her identity too. You know what they say: one cannot love and be wise. To avoid mishaps such as this, we’d like to help you plan the perfect secret romantic getaway and get away with it.

Where to go?

Picture of Parque Maria Luisa in Sevilla

Seville has the romantic air of Venice. Or more accurately, canals.
Credit : Frayle / Flickr

Perhaps your journey will begin with a savoury breakfast in 1st class on a Thalys train and end with a dreamy stroll along the canals of Amsterdam. You could cozy up in a horse-drawn carriage through the streets of Vienna. If you’re the active type, why not take a long-weekend and visit the Alps and ski to your heart’s content (and of course indulge in all kinds of heart melting cheesy goodness)? Hop on the Eurostar and visit us in the City of Love but please be aware that we don’t give romantic tours of Trainline HQ at this time—our handsome developers were causing too much trouble for young couples.

If you’re thinking of taking a longer trip, why not visit a few nearby destinations or take a day trip somewhere? The quaint city of Antwerp is only 1 hour by train from Amsterdam and 50 minutes from Brussels. If you’re looking to heat things up in hotter climates, an excursion to Seville or Valencia might just be what you need! From Seville you can easily make a day trip to the coast and or go inland and visit the historical city of Córdoba.

When and how long?

Is this a weekend getaway or do you intend to take off for a week? You’ll have to drop some clues to your significant other that s/he’s going to be calling in lovesick very soon.

Save money for your honey

Plan ahead to get the best deals on rail tickets and know when each rail operator releases the timetables so that you can book accordingly. Last minute planner? No worries. We guarantee the cheapest available train tickets. Click here to find out the various release dates for tickets.

Need some more inspiration?

Picture of the red train in Chamonix.

Chamonix.
Credit : Daniel Luis Gómez Adenis / Flickr

We’ve asked our team of rail (and love) experts to come up with a few suggestions of their own. Here are our favourite picks for some nice romantic trips:

And if you are still pondering where to go, why not check out all of the destinations that Trainline has to offer? Click here to view our entire rail network coverage.

Don’t leave a trail

To prevent getting caught in the act, you’ll need to make a stealthy purchase if you’ve got a shared account. Our recommendation? The prepaid debit card. This way, even if the purchase still raises eyebrows, the actual booking payment won’t show up on your statement and expose you. And if you don’t have one, then you can always pay with PayPal too!

Schedule the catsitter

Now all you have to do is tie up a few loose ends and love will find a way. Or if you can’t bear to part with your four-legged companions, why not bring them along? We offer SNCF animal tickets too!

If you’re not so romantically inclined or, like many of us, haven’t got a sweetheart for whom you can plan exciting getaways, don’t forget that you can sweep yourself off your own feet and step onto a train at any time. The course of true love never did run smooth, but trains do.

2016 in Review

by Malin Schibler, posted 12 January 2017 | 4 comments

Illustration of a train coming out of a tunnel representing the 2016 year.

In 2015 and 2013 we looked back on the year in terms of numbers… We counted the number of users, employees and the amount of kilometres covered by train. We gave you all of the details. And certain speculators came up with the wildest scenarios.

This year, we’ve stopped with the numbers. Not because they are less significant than before. Instead we wanted to change the formula to keep in line with what 2016 has brought us: a vast amount of projects, surprises and new additions.

We’d like to thank all of you for this very eventful year, both for your understanding and your outrages too. It’s helped and encouraged us to continue and improve, because it’s you, both the old betas testers and the newcomers, that have paid close attention to what we do.

  • January

    High-speed payments
    We started the year with a bang: your payments launched with a speed of 320 km/h in our machines, so your bookings can always be completed in the fastest way possible. We keep your data and information Snowden-style secure, and you’re able to buy your ticket in just a few clicks.

  • February

    Let’s talk business
    After a beta launch in November 2015, we released Captain Train for Business in February. The features are identical to our booking platform that’s open to everyone, though it has been slightly adapted to suit the needs of professionals and businesses. We think only a single-word description is in order: simplicity.

  • March

    Welcome to Trainline
    In the long and grand history of Captain Train (Capitaine Train), our fusion with Trainline, the number one seller of train tickets on the other side of the Channel, remains of our biggest events.  It provided us with a huge new set of opportunities for us to give you a real travel experience for the entire European continent.

  • May

    All visitors welcome
    We launched a new version of our website, specifically for visitors. This means that you no longer have to create an account to book a ticket with us. In our quest for the simplest and best customer experience, compulsory account creation was our Achilles heel. For our apps this still has a short while longer to go and we will soon also offer bookings without needing to create an account.

  • June

    ¡Vamos a la playa!
    After Germany and Italy, Spain was next to be added to our network of countries for which we sell tickets. At the same time, we are also very proud to offer our website and applications in Spanish. That’s because when we do something, we do it muy bien. 

  • September

    A minty fresh water
    This September, we officially became Trainline and were completed with a new mint green paint job. You may have also spotted us in the Parisian metro with our new ad campaign. This was a big surprise to many of you, especially for our most loyal users. We received a lot of valuable feedback about this and would like to thank you for it!

  • October

    The age of Dog
    This was truly a fantastic announcement for our 4 (or fewer) legged friends. We now proudly also offer animal reservations for any SNCF tickets. Small anecdote: this feature has by far been one of the most asked-for since the beginning of Captain Train. So it was a true milestone for us to meet! Feel free to tweet us any pictures of you and your animal companion when you’re travelling by train…  (0r just any picture of your pet … we don’t mind.)

  • November

    Please mind the gap
    As the colder months of the year approached, we opened our doors to the curious at Startup Assembly [link in French]. A large amount of pastries have been eaten, and plenty of presentations about our payment systems and our spirit for customer service were given to accompany their delicious taste.

  • December

    Fries, waffles and pan-European democracy
    To finish off the year, we were super happy to announce that we now also sell tickets for the Benelux countries: Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. That means you can now eat chocolate covered waffles (or fries, if that’s your thing) throughout the entire year.

If you’ve kept reading this far, awesome! Here’s a little piece of insider information: we’re already back to work on exciting projects for 2017 and we will of course be telling you all about it, right here.

Train Tickets for the whole of Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg are now available on Trainline!

by Malin Schibler, posted 12 December 2016 | 4 comments

Illustration of symbols representing Benelux.

First it was only France, then came Germany, Italy and later on Spain. Now we’ve added the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg – also known as Benelux! – for which we previously could only offer a handful of routes. So now we’re excited to announce that we cover all three countries and have a whole new range of destinations on offer.

The strength of a union

Situated between the north of France and the west of western Germany, you’ll find “Be” “Ne” “Lux”. It’s a region that finds its name from the three distinct countries that it is made up of: Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. It is these three countries that formed an economic union at the end of World War II, to join forces against their larger neighbours. And from this Benelux was born.

Harmonising rail travel

Although its purposes are primarily economic, the union also helped to make  the sale of Dutch, Belgian and Luxembourgish train tickets easier. It allowed Benelux to be crossed by train as if it were a single territory. By adding Benelux to our network coverage, we’re not simply adding a single new country – but instead three. So this means that we’ve been able to include three entire new rail networks to our platform.

Heading to Benelux

Brussels

picture of the royal gallery in Brussels

La galerie du Roi — Flickr/Stephane Mignon

As the capital of the low lands, Brussels represents the political heart of Europe and may have once had a reputation for being stuffy or bureaucratic. Yet in fact, Brussels is gaining a reputation as one of Europe’s must-visit cities, with its great nightlife and fantastic shopping as well as its well known beer and chocolate!

Travel to Brussels by train:

Amsterdam

pictures of Amsterdam housses with bikes

By bike

Although Amsterdam is largely known for being liberal in every sense of the word,  it is a city that encapsulates the true spirit of a global metropolitan village. It is lively, innovative and vibrant enough to be considered a world city, yet its quaint houses, historical architecture and never-ending canals all ensure that Amsterdam keeps its down-to-earth vibe. It is a remarkable city that has something to offer for all – as long as you don’t get in the way of the bikes!

Travel to Amsterdam by train:

Luxembourg

Picture of the river in the city of Luxemburg

Luxembourg — Flickr/Flavio Ensiki

Nestled in between France, Belgium and Germany, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg enjoys a central position in Western Europe, which means this tiny country is able to shine in the financial sector.  It also offers a beautiful scenic railway network. The Grand Duchy can readily be crossed by train: to get to the North, just get off at front of the train. To reach the south of Luxembourg, just exit the train at the rear. The capital of this eponymous country, the city of Luxembourg, is certainly worth seeing, if only to enjoy its walled city – an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Head to Luxembourg by train:

Elsewhere in Benelux

These new tickets give you the opportunity to discover the lesser-known parts of Benelux. In Belgium, feel free to take a trip to Antwerp, Bruges or Liege. In the Netherlands, we let you discover Utrecht, The Hague, Gouda or Maastricht. Now that we can offer you tickets to all of these places, it would be a shame to miss out!

Taking the train in the Benelux

Picture of Antwerp train station with large door

Inside Antwerp station — Flickr/squawkr

Thanks to Mick’s work,  you can now book tickets to travel all throughout the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. This makes up a rail network of almost 7000 km in tracks.

Ticket prices and fares

For the Benelux, the ticket prices depends primarily on the length of your journey. The more distance that you cover – the more you pay.  For example, here are some of the costs of an adult priced fare:

Route Second First
Brussels – Bruges €14.30 €22.00
Amsterdam – Haarlem €5.20 €8,20
Eindhoven – Liège €23.00 €37.70
Rotterdam – Antwerpen €22.60 €36.40
Luxembourg – Gand €45.00 €63.80

 

When to book

Contrary to the practice for French, German, Spanish or Italian train tickets, the price of tickets for trains in the Benelux doesn’t depend on when you book. Instead, you will pay the exact same fare regardless of whether you book well in advance or on the day of travel. So the date of booking doesn’t really matter or influence your tickets.

No seat reservations

Unlike tickets for TGV trains or (the optional) seat reservations for Deutsche Bahn trains, there are no seat reservations given for tickets for any of the Benelux trains. This is much like the regional trains in France (TER), Italy, Germany and Spain. So when you receive your ticket, there is no seat number specified and instead you are free to pick your own seats on board, within your booked travel class.

Pre-book tickets

If you have a Trainline account, you might already know that you can pre-book your tickets by adding them to your cart – if this is permitted by the rail operator. By pre-booking tickets, you can guarantee and secure the price of your ticket and your seat reservations for a certain amount of time. This can range between 30 minutes to more than a week. There’s no obligation to pay and instead the reservation just deletes itself if it isn’t purchased before it expires.

You can do the same with any of your booked Benelux tickets. Yet the pre-booking time unfortunately isn’t as generous as with other tickets – you generally have a few hours before the reservation expires. So think well about your decision, but not too long 😉

Train tickets for the Benelux

Printing E-Tickets

All of the train tickets that we sell for the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg are nominative e-tickets. This means that they are tied to the travelling passengers named and can’t be used by or sold to someone else. The e-ticket must be printed on A4 paper. Displaying the ticket on a phone unfortunately does not suffice – the ticket must be printed.

Refunding or exchanging E-tickets

The E-tickets are non-exchangeable. This simply means that if you wish to exchange your ticket (e.g. change the date or the destination), you can cancel the ticket and then purchase a new one. You can easily and quickly cancel your tickets on our website or with our apps. The ticket counters in Belgium, Holland or Luxembourg unfortunately cannot modify a ticket that has been purchased through us. Though send them our best railway greetings in any case.

Fare conditions

Picture of Brussels Midi train station

Mid-length Brussels — Flickr/R/DV/RS

Like all rail operators, the Benelux operators offer many fares. To make things as simple as possible, we sell two specific fares: Domestic and Standard.  Their conditions are very similar, regardless of whether you’re travelling in Belgium, the Netherlands or Luxembourg.

In general, the tickets:

  • cannot be exchanged
  • can be cancelled (for a fee of  €5 or €15).

Conditions for the Domestic and Standard fares

In Belgium, the fare is called Domestic. The Dutch and Luxembourgish have chosen to call it Standard. Although a difference in the name – they are both the same thing. These tickets are not exchangeable. They are refundable before departure. Either for a fee of €15 if cancelled on the day of departure or for a fee of €5 if cancelled before the midnight of departure.

Travel with your bike

If you’d like to travel within Benelux with a bike, then it’s super easy! First book a ticket online and then you can later buy a ticket for your bike at any ticket counter or ticket machine. Unlike SNCF trains, we do not sell bike tickets on our site for Benelux trains.

Here are the prices of bicycle spaces on trains in the Benelux:

  • €5.00 for a one-way ticket;
  • €8 for an unlimited number of journeys in a single day;
  • for free if you have a folding bike.

Trusting people with admin rights

by Pierre de La Morinerie, posted 02 December 2016 | Add comment

Picture of crossed keys, inspired by the film "The Grand Budapest Hotel" by Wes Anderson

The keys to our servers. / credits

At Trainline Europe it was decided early on to trust employees. Once you’re in, you’re in entirely. We are not going to give you gradual access to the code, partial access to some systems, editing rights on a case-to-case basis. As much as possible, everyone can use anything, right from the start.

This has many concrete advantages. It lets people be creative: when you don’t have to ask for permission, many creative experimentations and solutions are possible. It reduces friction and paperwork: when the administrator of a system leaves for vacation, work can still be done without waiting for their return to perform the required tasks. It gives greater responsibility to people: when you are given the rights to a system, you tend to be responsible with it.

Let me give you some examples.

C’mon newcomer. Follow me.

On your first day at Trainline Europe, we’ll spend a few hours giving you access to every system.

Are you a Customer WOW Engineer, supporting our customers? You get access to OTRS, our tool for answering customer support emails, of course. But also to GitLab, the tool used by developers to write and host the code for all our software. You’ll be able to see our issues boards and comment on our code or mock-ups. We’ll even train you for this. You can use this knowledge to better respond (“Yes, we have an open issue about unsellable tickets to Eu-La-Mouillette right now”), and report problems to developers.

Are you a software developer? You’ll get access to GitLab, but also to OTRS, our tool for answering customer support emails. You can use it to handle job applications, but also to answer real customer questions. We’ll even train you for this. Seeing real issues first-hand that customer face will help you to have a better sense of what to do to improve our product, or the tools used by WOW Engineers. You’ll also get rights to deploy software into production, from day one. What better way to on-board new developers than to make them push their own improvements into production?

You’ll also get access to our blog. You can write anything, and you have access to the “Publish” button. Want to talk about something great around you? Just sign-in and start writing a blog post. Of course you should probably get it proof-read by someone else, and ask for the person managing the editorial timeline for the right moment to publish a new article. But you won’t get stuck because “Sorry, the person with publishing rights is in Antarctica for three weeks”.

We use Slack for internal discussions. Many things happen there: work, notifications, random chatter… feel like an emoji is missing? Add it yourself right away. This is how the conventions for deploying our software emerged organically, using one custom emoji per project. Want to coordinate the work on a new feature? Just create a new public channel. Nobody will restrict this – and if the channel remains empty, there is still the possibility to archive it later.

Something is missing on our servers? You need a new package, or changing some settings? The Ansible recipes for configuring our servers are accessible – so that everyone can read, understand and improve the recipes.

Speaking for myself

A few years ago, we migrated from GitHub (a source-control website) to GitLab, a free alternative. Although GitLab is now a pillar of our development process, the beginnings were rough, with some features not working as well as we’d hoped.

After complaining for a few hours about this, I started editing GitLab source code and improving the major pain points. Once the changes were ready, I asked our CTO if he could deploy them. He answered by giving me administrative access to the machine running GitLab. Wow, that was more than I asked for.

I deployed the code, it worked well, solved our issues, and even got merged in the official project. Yay! With these rights, I started to feel responsible for it. I started upgrading GitLab regularly, following progress of new features, and making other improvements. I became the de-facto GitLab maintainer – just because someone, at some point, gave me full rights.

This wasn’t planned, but giving the rights was surely a productivity boost for us. And it worked the same way for many other people working on different topics: one day, someone gave them full rights.

Rewriting our software pipeline

Earlier this year we wrote about how we transitioned from one software pipeline to a new one, based on GitLab. This gave us a significant productivity boost: we run tests quicker and earlier than before, changes get accepted faster, and idea-to-production cycle is reduced.

This project started partly because transitioning a project to this new improved system didn’t require any permissions. Our old system wasn’t configured to give access to everyone – which means few people knew how to configure it, or could make changes. The new one can be used safely by anyone, without requiring specific permissions – and that’s how it started.

Security

This doesn’t mean we compromise anything on security; quite the contrary. Access to production servers are restricted to a limited number of people. We use configuration templates, to keep away production credentials from the public recipes that configure our servers. We also peer-review all changes to new code or configuration. And as we use versioned configuration systems, we always know who did what.

But apart from this, once you’re in, we trust you. To not only to do the right things, but to use these rights to do amazing things.

Conclusion

This is why when we set up new software, we usually give admin rights to as many people as possible.

  • It allows people to solve real organization issues in a spontaneous way.
  • It removes single-points-of-failure, so that we can work even when the system administrator is not there.
  • It gives responsibility to the people, which they then may use for amazing things that weren’t even planned.

Give them access, and you’ll see what people can really do.

Captain Train changes its name and becomes Trainline

by Malin Schibler, posted 06 September 2016 | 24 comments

Alea iacta gare de l’Est. The die is cast – our old name too. After many years of good and loyal service, we brought out old name to the depot station, in order to replace it with that of Trainline, as we announced a short few weeks ago. Since the acquisition of Captain Train by Trainline in March, both of our teams have been working closely together on a joint booking platform for Europe. To ensure that everyone finds their way around, it only made sense to have the same name and the same visual identity throughout all of Europe.

A new name and new colours

On our website:

search_en_shrink Our website is now accessible at www.trainline.eu. We’ve changed the logo and the colour schemes, though the interface and the product remains exactly the same. You still won’t find any ads or booking fees.

In our apps:

Screenshots of our mobile apps Our Android and iOS apps have also received a new paint job, in order to adapt to Trainline’s colour palette and logo. Though the functionality remains exactly the same. In the App Store and in the Play Store we’re now called Trainline EU. This helps us distinguish ourselves from the British app, which is called Trainline UK (and is for train tickets in the U.K.).

On social media:

While we were already at it, we also changed our name everywhere online. You can now get in touch with us at , @trainline_eu on Twitter, and Trainline Europe on Facebook. Feel free to come by and say hello!

A future with prospect

In time, our website and apps will merge with the services of Trainline, to offer a single and comprehensive booking platform for all trains in Europe. Whether your departing from Manchester, Dyffryn Ardudwy, Dijon, Barcelona or Rome, you’ll have all of your tickets in the same app. There’s still a long road ahead, though we’re at least now working towards our goal whilst sporting the same colours. Thank you to everyone who has been using Captain Train, especially our loyal customers. With all of our heart do we want to make this collaboration with Trainline successful for you.

What to Expect in September

by Brice Boulesteix, posted 22 August 2016 | 8 comments

We wanted to give you some news and let you know what we’ve been up to in the months following the Trainline acquisition last March. In brief, the past five months have been five very good months for Captain Train: our sales have rocketed, our European network has expanded and the Trainline team has warmly welcomed us each time we’ve visited them in London—although the same can’t really be said about the weather.

What we’ve accomplished

In France

picture of captain train team in the metro In the Hexagon, we hung our posters up in the Parisian metro and train stations for a few weeks.  As you can see, we were pretty excited about that.

In Europe

map of spain with railway network In Europe, Spain has joined the list of countries where we sell all types of train tickets. Like France, Italy and Germany, our site and applications are now practical for every day living in Spain. Spain’s network is very similar to France since only one carrier operates the trains there: Renfe.

What remains to be done

Becoming Trainline

Since the takeover by Trainline, the Captain Train managers have been leading a double life and juggling two business cards at a time: some with the Captain Train logo, others with the Trainline logo. To lighten their pockets, as well as establish one single brand across Europe, we’ve decided to adopt the name Trainline. From September on, Captain Train will be known as Trainline. Our site and our application will change name and colour, but soon you will see that Captain Train is just getting a mint green paint job. We have no plans to move a single pixel, it’s just a simple coat of paint, so that the appearance of Trainline services are the same on both sides of the Channel.

Don’t lose touch

We are now part of the group Trainline, certainly, but our mission and our values have not changed. We will continue our efforts to become the favourite site of people throughout Europe who wish to purchase train tickets. Clearly, everything at the heart of Captain Train remains more relevant than ever with Trainline. Trainline wants to simplify ticket sales like us. They are eager to promote train travel and, like us, they want to conquer Europe—in the geographical sense, anyway.

Moving forward

A new chapter has opened for Captain Train. Trainline is now part of our daily life and we’re still doing what we always wanted to do: become the largest window to Europe. Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or comments, we’d like to hear them, so leave us a note below or send an email to realpeople@trainline.eu.

Captain Train + Trainline

by Jean-Daniel Guyot, posted 15 March 2016 | 7 comments

blogpost_cttlAfter seven years of hard work, the project that started in my 12m2  apartment and is now Captain Train, has taken up an important place in the transport industry in Europe. It has been seven years of small lows and great highs, seven years of having fun getting up every morning to join a team of talented people who have a passion for simplifying your life, be it in with their code, their marketing campaigns or their answers to your questions.

The problem in this market is that goal we wish to achieve is gigantic and, in this context, any help is welcome. Trainline (which is like a Captain Train to our friends across the Channel), came to us last year and offered to join forces, and visions.

So, who is Trainline? Trainline, like Captain Train, an independent service to buy train tickets, located in the UK. Trainline launched  in 1997 by selling train tickets by phone (hence, the train line), independently of the many carriers active there, and today processes more than €2.1 billion worth of train tickets each year in the UK.

So we merged, because we believe that together our strengths will enable us to develop faster to provide a simple and inclusive product to everyone travelling by train in Europe. The Captain Train team will provide their expert knowledge of the rail industry in continental Europe, and Trainline will give their significant experience in a very competitive and strongly growing market. 

Does this mean that the Captain Train team will swap their baguettes for pints and move to London? Or worse, disappear? No. We will strive to create an unique product from our existing respective products, while remaining the same European company that we have always been. The new group will now have two offices, one in London and one in Paris. Both of these offices will continue to grow and develop.

Our ambition will remain the same. We want to provide everyone for everyone to all the trains and tickets in Europe, along with the all best prices, all available routes and itineraries and allow all rail operators to distribute their tickets effortlessly via a simple platform. So, we’ll be continuing on this track!