• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Race is on in German intercity bus market

AFP · 23 Mar 2014, 14:40

Published: 23 Mar 2014 14:40 GMT+01:00

Since the regional coach market was liberalized in January 2013, a plethora of operators has hit the road to win a slice of the hotly-contested sector.

Bright yellow, apple green or electric blue, shiny new coaches in garish colours now compete for attention and market share as they criss-cross Europe's most populous country.

The newcomers try to lure passengers with comfortable seats, Wi-Fi Internet connections and sometimes free coffee.

Until last January 2013, coach services were limited to protect railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB).

Previously only a few long-distance bus services were allowed, some of them DB subsidiaries, mainly on routes that connected West Berlin with the rest of the former West Germany since before national reunification in 1990.

Now any company can enter the regional coach market for distances of at least 50 kilometres (31 miles) and routes with at least one hour between stops.

Within one year, these intercity bus links have almost tripled to 221, according to transport ministry figures.

Christoph Gipp of the IGES research institute said there are now 10 to 15 additional players in this "very dynamic market".

"Some smaller players have disappeared and some have merged with larger ones, for example MeinFernbus (my long distance bus)," he said.

This Berlin start-up, founded by two partners who had met as students, has taken the pole position with a market share of nearly 40 percent, according to an IGES study.

"Demand is strong, our buses are booked out regularly," one of its founders, Torben Greve, told AFP. Last year, his company transported 2.7 million people.

Deutsche Bahn is the second largest player, ahead of newcomers like ADAC Postbus, formed jointly by the automobile club ADAC and logistics group Deutsche Post.

Smaller new operators are Flixbus and DeinBus, while British operator National Express has also stepped in under the name City2City.

The buses are usually sleek and comfortable, but the main attraction is price.

"Great city. Small price. From €8 euros," City2City proclaims on its website.

MeinFernbus lets passengers cross the country from north to south. A trip from Hamburg to Stuttgart, from €28 - about half the cost of a train fare.

New routes also connect medium-sized cities such as Marburg, in the centre, Regensburg in Bavaria and Luebeck on the Baltic Sea.

"The long-distance bus is above all a competitor to the car," said Greve.

"It's used by people who want to escape the stress of driving or those who see it as an alternative to carpooling."

Story continues below…

The buses attract lots of students, but also the elderly, who appreciate the convenience of direct connections compared with having to change trains en route.

The bus companies also highlight the environmental aspect, with a lower per-passenger fuel consumption and carbon footprint than car travel.

In the market - which is still small compared to overall traffic but growing fast - the increase in connections has led to "very tough competition," said Greve.

He vowed however that MeinFernbus won't offer rock-bottom fares.

"We're not one of those who offer one-euro trips, we don't think that's reasonable," he said, adding that his company intends to become profitable this year.

After the initial wild phase, the market should thin out, predicted Gipp - an analysis shared by Greve who believes "in the end there will be three or four long-distance bus companies in Germany".

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Munich pulls together after shopping mall shooting
Photo: DPA

In the chaos after the Munich mall shooting, city residents spontaneously offered shelter to strangers - a move that Chancellor Angela Merkel said showed that Germany's strength lies in its values.

Merkel deplores 'night of horror' in Munich
Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday said Munich had suffered a "night of horror" after a shooting spree in the southern German city left nine people dead.

Munich shooting
Munich attacker was shy video game fan
People laying flowers at the site of the shootings. Photo: DPA.

David Ali Sonboly was a quiet, helpful teenager who loved playing video games. His neighbours say there were no warning signs before his deadly rampage at a Munich shopping mall.

Munich shooting
Munich gunman inspired by rightwing Breivik: police
Photo: DPA

The lone teenager who shot dead nine people in a gun rampage in Munich was "obsessed" with mass killers such as Norwegian rightwing fanatic Anders Behring Breivik and had no links to the Islamic State group, police said Saturday.

Munich shooting
Turks, Kosovans and a Greek among shooting victims
Photo: DPA

Three Turkish citizens were among the nine people killed in Germany's Munich mall shooting. Three Kosovans were also among the nine victims.

Munich shooting
Munich gunman was likely not Isis terrorist: police
Flowers laid at the Olympia Shopping Centre underground station. Photo: DPA

According to initial investigations by Munich police, the young man who went on a shooting rampage in Munich on Friday evening was a lone gunman without motive, not a terrorist.

Munich shooting
'Lone' Munich shooter kills nine, commits suicide
Photo: DPA

A teenage German-Iranian gunman who killed nine people in a shooting spree at a busy Munich shopping centre and then committed suicide had likely acted alone, German police said Saturday.

As it happened
Nine dead in shooting rampage in Munich
File photo: DPA

Nine people are dead after "at least one person" went on a shooting spree in a Munich shopping centre on Friday evening. An attacker is believed to be among the dead.

German Turkish community split by unrest after coup plot
Pro-Erdogan protesters in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Hatred between supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and those opposed to him has exploded on social media in Germany in the wake of a failed coup attempt last Friday.

Germany stresses defence of Baltics after Trump comments
Photo: DPA

Germany on Friday stressed its promise to protect its NATO allies after White House hopeful Donald Trump called the commitment into question.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Analysis & Opinion
Nice was an attack on France, not on Germany
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
10,713
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd