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Are scheduled coach services in international transport still viable?

Posted in Industry news

The question is not meaningless, given the strong competition from budget airlines.

What lies ahead for regular international coach transport? What is going to happen with the coach operators which are present in the market? Who will win the competition; low cost airlines, coaches and buses or high speed trains? We are curious about your opinions. Of course we are not concerned about intercontinental transport, because here the answer is obvious. There is no technical transportation capacity for coaches or trains. We are asking you about Europe transportation only.

In our opinion certainly the transportation system will change in the future. Nothing is certain, but certainly some changes will (must) be implemented to all available modes of transport. Now the UK is dominated by low-cost airlines and certainly the British and European high speed rail network will also garner much attention. People in Britain prefer to travel fast, although more expensively, often not including additional costs such as transportation to the airport, baggage charges, overnight stay at the airport or a fee for parking space at the airport.
By reading many posts on various forums related to travel, our service has observed that the British are very reluctant to use the long-distance coach service. The British nation often associate this form of travel as something unacceptable and do not even take it as an option for consideration.

So what is the future of international coach service in Britain? Do you think that such a categorical statement like "Is there any reason for coaches and buses in international traffic to exist" is a bit of an overstatement?

Surely it would not work like today, there are about a dozen coach links a day from London and other areas  to France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland. We believe that there will be less (a lot less) coach services, that the coaches to the countries of Southern and Eastern Europe rather disappear completely, but we think that countries that are within 30 hours by coach will continue to have these connections.

Airplanes are certainly convenient and a very fast way of travel, but people need to check in and travel to remote airports which makes it not only unattractive but a very stressful form of travel. Of course this mode of transport is getting cheaper, but as emphasized by the air carriers themselves, people travelling by planes should not dream of cheap flights to less frequented areas, even in Europe. Some lines will be opened only during periods of increased tourist traffic, such as summer holidays, special events, Christmas, etc.
Tickets will become cheaper, but unfortunately you will have to pay a lot more for the carriage of luggage, even hand luggage, airport fees, entertainment and service during the flight, etc.

Currently there is much competition between low cost airlines, so prices are quite moderate. However, competition is characterized by the fact that if one competitor wins markets then the other one falls from it. So what happens when someone is becoming dominant in this market? He can raise ticket prices or offer a worse standard of service.

High-speed trains will never be cheap, because the costs of running high-speed trains are enormous, though they are subsidized by governments.

To certain areas airplanes or trains never arrive and only coaches and buses will have that possibility.

There is still demand for long-distance coach transport due to the continuing financial crisis in Europe, but what is the future for long-distance and international coach operators? How will carriers be perceived by current customers after the economic crisis, when demand for coaches drops? How will the battle between coach operators themselves and between different modes of transport look like?

We think that the companies will reduce or suspend services, small transportation companies shall fall or be taken over. In this case it has no relationship with coach operators from the UK, because here only large carriers like National Express, Eurolines and Megabus operate. This situation can apply to carriers from continental Europe. We don’t think that standard tickets for coach services can be cheaper than now. With such high fuel prices it is unlikely, but as you might know also the air and rail transport is linked with fuel consumption.

Now coach operators say that they always find a market for themselves in spite of the existence of air or rail competitors. Their explanation confirms the fact that coaches take passengers from city centres or other convenient stops along the way and transport them to domestic or foreign stations located in city centres. Yes, the coach journey will last more than the flight but you do not have to travel to / from airports, which are very distant form city centres. Eurolines and Megabus are doing it already, both carriers transport passengers from the various citiesand towns in the UK to hundreds of cities and towns in Europe, Ireland and even Morocco.
This may seem unrealistic but coach operators with their current connections have much better networks than air and rail operators. Existing in the UK and Europe coach services are more complex (especially Eurolines) than plane and train operators together.
You can carry much more baggage than by plane, and this is included in the fare. Current coach carriers improve the quality of their services. Coaches are not only new, but must meet appropriate environmental standards as well as not exceed the standards related to noise. Internet (Wi-Fi) is becoming standard. On some routes refreshments and daily newspapers are offered for free. Some carriers from the Eurolines group offer a personal entertainment panel: A touch screen with high resolution, which is built into the seat. Passengers can individually view different movies or music videos, play games, observe the coach from outside and track the coach route.
Megabus on the other hand has modernised some coaches, which corresponds to the version of a train couchette. It is a non-stop coach service with berths, operates only between London and Glasgow. The carrier has announced the implementation of this idea into its international services.

Our forecasts for the coming 2-3 years for the coach transportation are: People will be travelling by coaches on domestic and foreign lines. Plane tickets are getting cheaper, but do not forget that in order to buy a really cheap ticket you need to do this well in advance, two or even three months in advance. Another fact is a limited amount of air corridors, for this reason, air-operators purchase a more spacious aircraft. But that's not enough, therefore coach service will continue to exist in domestic and international markets, but it will be limited.

Surely small businesses will be displaced from the market. This applies to all modes of transport.

Generally we do not think that the problem of this thread is an overstatement. Competition between air and coach operators will be increasingly higher. Actually airlines offer connections to major cities (on routes where there are a lot of passengers). However, air transport carriers can extend their services - the transport of passengers from airports to cities within the national structure (although this is not observed). Such a combination would undoubtedly compete with the coach.

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1 comment

Serena Grimald

II, for one, would be lost without international coach travel, as I am a non-flyer. I have been to most European countries and Turkey by coach, and regularly go to Greece (3 times in the last year!), via Italy or Bulgaria, and have learned to enjoy travelling overland immensely. Its a great mind broadening experience..

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