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French phenomenon to take carpooling mainstream

24th May 2011 Print

With petrol prices continuing to soar to all time highs, drivers can now share their travel costs by inviting passengers to join them, saving an estimated 80 per cent per journey.

French company, Comuto, is launching its successful carpooling service BlablaCar in the UK following huge success in France, where over one million users have saved €100m since January 2009.

The service, known as in France, has been a phenomenal success amongst drivers and passengers alike who are frustrated at disruptions to air and rail transport and hard hit by increasing petrol prices and rising public transport costs. The site, founded in 2006, is growing by over 50,000 users per month, not only saving €100m since 2009 but also over 200,000 tons of CO2, making it an environmentally friendly way to travel.

To use the service, drivers post details of their trip and a suggested price, typically a proportionate contribution. Potential passengers searching for a specific trip then choose whether or not this fits with what they want to pay.

The need for a mainstream carpooling service is attributed to drivers looking to offset the burden of rocketing petrol costs on journeys they are already making. In April 2011, the price of unleaded petrol was 135.8 pence per litre, almost 15p a litre more expensive than in April 2010.

BlablaCar expects to initially recruit drivers travelling on popular journeys such as London to Manchester where commuters drive one way on a Monday morning and return home on Friday evening. With the average cost in petrol alone being £32.60 for this route, drivers are set to save £24.45 on a typical journey based on the average 80 per cent saving predicted. In fact, for popular routes such as London-Manchester, where matching drivers and passengers is more likely to happen, drivers could save as much as £60 on a single journey, offsetting not only their entire petrol cost but also most of their vehicle running costs.

There is already an appetite for the service to launch in the UK, with trips from Paris to London increasing by between 100 and 200 per cent in the last year, with a growing number of trips offered from Paris to other locations throughout the UK such as Manchester, Sheffield and Cardiff.

For passengers, the service offers an extremely cost effective alternative to any other form of transport on their chosen route. Train fares are continuing to increase above the rate of inflation, while fuel prices are seeing even the budget airlines increase their rates.

Nicolas Brusson, co-founder of BlablaCar said:

“We are looking to replicate the success we have had in France here in the UK as rising petrol costs, issues and prices associated with peak time public transport, as well as environmental concerns are very similar. Savings are significant, with one French driver saving over €20,000, by transporting more than 1,250 people to destinations he was already driving to anyway.”

Edmund King, AA president, said: “Record pump prices and reduced public transport, particularly in rural areas, threatens to take everyday mobility away from the people who need it for essential trips, like getting to work. The AA now believes communities, whether friends, work colleagues, neighbourhoods or rural, are going to have to help each other to cut costs.

“BlablaCar creates an online community for people needing to cut fuel costs, but with an extended pool to draw from. With the cost of petrol and diesel hitting record levels this spring, even one shared trip a week may be sufficient to keep drivers on the road and their finances on track.”

BlablaCar, like its French counterpart, is a combination of a travel site and a community site, with drivers and passengers posting details about themselves and rating each other on a range of criteria, from performance and reliability to how chatty they are. The name BlablaCar comes from drivers rating how talkative they are as ‘bla’ (not very chatty), ‘blabla’ (likes a natter) and ‘blablabla’ (won’t shut up). The community aspect ensures transparency, safety and that the market effectively and efficiently sets the price of each trip.

Brusson continued: “BlablaCar is revolutionising carpooling from the preserve of students and those concerned with the environment to a mainstream answer to rising costs and tighter purse strings.”