Expedia buys majority stake in SilverRail

Rail distribution platform SilverRail Technologies is now majority owned by Expedia Inc.

Terms have not been disclosed.

The deal marks the end of an eight-year journey as an independent business for the UK-based company.

SilverRail was created by Aaron Gowell (CEO) and Will Phillipson (president) in 2009, billed initially as a GDS for trains, which has since expanded to offices in Sweden, Australia and the US.

SilverRail previously had a consumer-facing play in the shape of Quno, but this was discontinued within a few years.

The company has raised a hefty $69 million over the course of four rounds since its inception (TLabs here), in a bid to push its rail ticketing and train operator distribution platform.

The most recent investment came in April 2014 when Mithril Capital Management led a massive round of $40 million that also featured previous backers Canaan Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures, and Brook Venture Partners.

Gowell had earlier managed to attract $29 million in seed and series A and B funding, as well as a $3 million as part of a tuck-in acquisition.

The $40 million Series C was considered a monster round when compared with the industrywide median for Series C, according to a report at the time by research firm Pitchbook.

SilverRail’s most high-profile partnership to date was probably with Expedia, when it secured an agreement to power search and ticketing of rail services on the online travel agency.

Orbitz-owned Ebookers (both now part of the Expedia empire) was the first major OTA to work with SilverRail.

Phillipson had previously worked for Wandrian, a US-based startup with much the same mission as SilverRail.

Expedia Inc CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, says:

“Rail is ready for an online revolution, and we’re ready to be a part of it. Rail’s shift online is one of the fastest growing areas of innovation in the $1.3 trillion travel market, and SilverRail is powering that innovation.

“We are tremendously excited to welcome the incredibly talented SilverRail team into the Expedia family.”

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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  1. Peter Topping

    There are some salient points missing from the discussion here.

    One the discussion about rial online and the start up scene has always been blighted by the trans Atlantic disconnect and the disproportionate weight of the American voice in the debate. Rial is not a thing of significance in the US market and discussion with many non travel industry Americans will lead you to think they view it as low status, how ever once they try it they are enthusiastic converts .

    Secondly the issue of yield for OTAs / GSA and wholesalers in point to point rail is often not great in dollar terms for the effort but is reasonable compared to air if you can get the volumes.

    The yield in specialty and or private/expedition trains is excellent and the rail holiday is a killer niche but it is a difficult product to transact on line it is a click to brick call to action.

    The political context, the business footing and the investment in reservations technology in the key markets has been held back by central govt spending in Europe during the last decade and the curious position of many operators as State owned Enterprises or highly regulated low agility quasi State enterprises has restricted the ability and culture of rail companies.

    The historical context, Military driven innovation in air, shipping and road transport has been a feature of the period 1914 to 2014 and this has bi passed the rail sector so its until recently been a slow mover. Rial in the post war WW2 period across Europe and the Anglosphere was a hot bed of pro Soviet or pro Communist unionism which in its early days had the power to exert extreme pressure on commerce and the flow of goods, people and services across the economies of the nations so a political choice was made by Conservative and Social Democratic Parties to invest elsewhere for the strategic good of the nation in the cold war period, rail tech has paid the price of this move.

    Opportunity in rail abounds and its low hanging fruit to criticise either Silver or Expedia.

  2. Wouter Cassee

    The question is whether Expedia will be able to create a booking/reservation standard within the Rail industry (TOC’s) in Europe and Asia.
    In the past, – in contrast to the airline industry -, the rail industry (by nature with a domestic focus) lacks a interoperable international technical ticketing standard.
    As a result, it has proofen to be hard and expensive to connect/interface to the existing TOC’s old CRS’s

  3. Mike Hughes

    I agree with your comment about the OTAs and of course there are reasons behind that e.g. lower average value of rail tickets v air, low rail commission payable to OTAs etc. which I think comes back to my point that Expedia are going to have to make a big marketing push to succeed in changing users buying habits i.e. most rail tickets today are sold through the train operators with for example in the UK, Trainline the only non-operator having a significant market share. Expedia may well succeed in rail over time but I can’t see it happening quickly.

    • TP

      While I agree that rail tickets may not generate much additional revenue by themselves, I see two other interesting points in this move:
      – this helps Expedia become even more of a one-stop shop for leisure travel. Expedia is offering already flights, hotels, car rentals, airport ground transfer and activities at destination. Rail will nicely complement this picture.
      – rail tickets can also be profitable if they help sell more hotel nights (maybe with Rail+Hotel packages?)

  4. Mike Hughes

    SilverRail has failed to generate much revenue over the past 8 years. It will be fascinating to see if Expedia’s marketing power can get a snowball rolling.

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @mike – Expedia’s marketing power would solely be used to generate interest in rail per se, not SilverRail, given that it’s a piece of technology behind the scenes rather than a consumer-facing brand.

      • Mike Hughes

        Understood Kevin. My point is that SilverRail have had quite a number of organisations using their product for some time but none of them have managed to generate many rail sales.

        • Kevin May

          Kevin May

          @mike – not sure that can be blamed on SilverRail, it’s more of an awareness issue about rail as a mode of transportation within the usual flight-heavy focus of OTAs.


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