Written evidence from Eurolines
Eurolines is the largest regular coach network in Europe, with a service spanning across the European Union and the continent, carrying over 3.5 million passengers per year. The brand represents 31 independent coach companies in 33 countries, which all follow strict quality standards.
- Bus and coach travel combined accounts for more passenger kilometres than any other mode of surface public transport in the European Union. Around 25% of public transport in the EU is provided by coaches. The industry has an estimated annual turnover of around €15 billion, operates around 250,000 vehicles, and employs more than 1.5 million people. Bus and coach travel continues to grow.
- International coach travel provides a cheap and environmentally-friendly alternative for citizens wanting to travel across Europe. During the ash cloud crisis, Eurolines provided extra fleets to get people back home. However, poor infrastructure means it is difficult for passengers to access coaches.
- The European Commission is currently drawing up a 10 year transport plan and we want to see the issue of passenger access to terminals being addressed in the plan. The EU has gone to great lengths to promote air travel and the rail networks but has done little to help the coach sector. Here is an opportunity for the EU to finally resolve some long-standing problems that coach passengers face and we would very much welcome any interventions that the Transport Select committee members could make when they are in Brussels.
Passenger Access to Coach Terminals
- Public authorities do not give sufficient consideration to the location of coach terminals. In some Member States anti-competitive practices mean it is impossible for many operators to access prime sites. The European Commission should intervene to remove these obstacles to coach operators.
Good co-ordination between terminal and coach operators will improve the passenger’s experience by facilitating information and assistance to passengers. The EC should determine some responsibilities for the terminal authorities since it is not clear what their responsibilities should be.
- A Report commissioned by DG MOVE, published in June 2009, called “A Study of Passenger Transport by Coach” demonstrated the differences between national markets, spanning from fully deregulated ones with open competition among many agents (such as in the UK) to semi-liberalised and concession-based models with few agents. Irrespective of the level of liberalization, incentives must be created to ensure that terminals take greater responsibility in strengthening passengers’ rights and open access to international operators. The European Commission should call on Member States to invest more on terminals and continuously work for improvements of terminal accessibility, as well as support the inter-operability between the different national models in place.
Infrastructure and Inter-Operability
Bus and coach travel is far less sensitive to disruptions than rail and air travel, plainly illustrated by the serious transport disruptions caused by the ash cloud in April 2010 and more recently by the cold spell sweeping across Europe. The ability to rapidly respond to changing demand make bus and coach travel a key element in realizing the Commission’s ambition of transport intermodality. Ensuring access by bus and coach travel to strategic transport points such as airports and railway stations is therefore central to EU inter-modality plans.
Source: House of Commons Transport Committee, the EU transport policy.