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Rail operator SNCF also announced that it is has led a $113 million investment in BlaBlaCar as a new investor. Perhaps carpooling could prove to be a path to building a major travel brand.

By 2019, French consumers may be able to go to the website of the nation’s main railway company and buy travel via a combined ticket of train plus bus, or train plus carpooling, or even train plus bus plus carpooling.

That’s the dream of BlaBlaCar, the world’s largest long-distance ridesharing community, which announced on Monday a surprise offer to acquire Ouibus, French intercity bus operator.

Negotiators are still working on the deal and a sale isn’t finalized, said Ouibus, a subsidiary of state-owned rail operator SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français).

But in a statement that voiced confidence a deal would be reached, Guillaume Pepy, president of SNCF, said, “We are convinced that to offer more trains, we need to offer more than trains.”

SNCF also announced that it is has led a $113 million (€101 million) investment in BlaBlaCar as a new investor. Previous investors also participated in the round.

BlaBlaCar has previously raised more than $330 million in venture capital since its founding in 2006. Its last funding round in 2016 valued the company at about $1.5 billion.

If successful, the deal would enable BlaBlaCar to expand, for the first time, its offering beyond carpooling.

BlaBlaCar, a decade-old startup based in Paris, said it had become profitable in September. It also said it had grown 40 percent in usage in the past year and that since August 2017, it has helped to transport 50 million passengers in 22 countries, primarily in Europe.

Ouibus has built a bus network connecting 300 large cities in France and Europe. Roland de Barbentane, CEO of Ouibus, said: “This project that could take us further in our international expansion.”

Ouibus competes with Flixbus, a German intercity brand offering service in Europe and the U.S. FlixBus transported 5.2 million passengers in France last year.

Eurolines, National Express, and Alsa also compete across Europe.

Rail operator SNCF runs a yearly deficit of 3 billion euros.

A decade ago, when Brusson and his two co-founders launched the booking platform, critics told them the idea was glorified hitchhiking and faced too many roadblocks to success. BlaBlaCar’s name originates from a tool that let members looking or offering rides rate how talkative they are on a scale from “Bla,” to “BlaBla,” to “BlaBlaBla.”


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Tags: blablacar, buses, sncf

Photo credit: Some people model what good car-pooling behavior should look like. BlaBlaCar is the world’s largest long-distance carpooling platform. It has offered to acquire Ouibus, a bus subsidiary of SNCF, which in turn SNCF said it has led a $113 million (€101 million) investment in the startup. BlaBlaCar

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