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SilverRail raises $40 million to target train tickets

A Woburn software firm has raised $40 million to expand its technology that enables travelers to book train tickets the same way for every rail line, as can already be done for air travel.

The company, SilverRail Technologies Inc., is aiming to follow the lead of Cambridge-based ITA Software, which developed a standardized system for booking plane tickets that is used by airlines and travel services.

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ITA was acquired by Google Inc. for $700 million in 2011.

Similarly, SilverRail’s software integrates all of the world’s rail lines into a single source, a sort of Rosetta Stone that brings together the wide array of online booking systems currently being used.

“We’re trying to make rail as easy to buy as is air,” said SilverRail’s chief executive, Aaron Gowell.

The platform includes both search and transaction technologies and initially targeted travel agencies. SilverRail eventually expanded into serving some of the rail carriers themselves, Gowell said.

“It was the exact same way at ITA — they started off by powering third-party travel agencies, and the airlines then adopted ITA,” he said.

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To date, the company has rolled out its technology in nine countries, including many European nations, including England and Italy, and for corporate rail travel in the United States, he said.

SilverRail is not yet being used for consumer rail booking in the United States but Gowell said he aims to have his company’s technology power popular online travel sites such as Kayak.com for all train travel.

The $40 million is the third round of venture capital for the company and brings its total funding to $73 million.

The latest round was led by Mithril Capital Management of San Francisco. The firm was founded by Ajay Royan and Peter Thiel, the PayPal cofounder who also was an early Facebook investor.

“There are two critical global networks that have never worked well together: Web and rail,” Royan said. SilverRail is seeking to end the waste of time and energy that problem brings, he said.

Moreover, passenger rail service has resisted innovation, in part because of the size of the technological hurdles and because of the perceived difficulty of working with the governments that are behind many of the world’s rail lines, Gowell said.

Existing investors Canaan Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures, and Brook Ventures took part in the new round.

Kyle Alspach can be reached
at kyle.alspach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @KyleAlspach and on betaboston.com.

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