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Exponent Private Equity today announces the acquisition of Trainline, the leading online and call centre rail retailer and information provider in the UK for £163m.

The company was bought from a consortium of shareholders that include Virgin, Stagecoach and National Express transport groups.

Trainline was launched in 1999 to sell rail tickets through the internet and call-centres. The business has expanded in the last seven years, acquiring its rival QJump from National Express Group in 2004 and, in addition to its own website,, it operates retail websites for 16 of the 21 Train Operating Companies as well as providing a rail business travel service direct to a number of blue chip corporations and travel agents.

In the year to March 2006, the company sold some £400m of train tickets earning revenue of £47.5m and Ebitda of £11.7m - it is currently achieving strong revenue growth.

The company's management team is led by Alan Tomlin who founded Trainline in 1999 and became CEO in 2001, Mark Furlong, Commercial Director who joined Trainline in 2002 and Jon Mitchell, Finance Director who joined in 2004. Trainline employs 91 people at its offices in London and Edinburgh and approximately 600 people through its outsource arrangements with leading global IT and call centre service providers.

The Exponent team commented, “Trainline is market leader in its field and is well-positioned to grow further reflecting the burgeoning UK rail market and increasing penetration of internet sales. The company has a strong management team and business model and we believe the business will now greatly benefit from an independent future and the involvement of Exponent. We identified Trainline early as a potentially very interesting investment and committed considerable resource to understand the business and building relationships with management, the vendors and their advisors.”

Alan Tomlin, Trainline CEO said, “I am delighted with today's announcement, which allows me and the team to continue to grow and develop TheTrainline business, at what is an extremely exciting time in the UK rail travel market.”

Commenting on behalf of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson said, “We are delighted that Trainline has gone to such a good home. We have nurtured the business through the dotcom boom and crash and always had confidence that it would play its part in the internet rail ticketing revolution that is now taking place. For some time now the rail industry and ATOC have been encouraging Virgin and the minority shareholders to divest their interests in the business through either a trade sale or flotation in order to provide it with greater independence from any individual train operator. Today's deal with Exponent has been welcomed by the industry and provides Trainline with a solid platform for further growth.”