Buses – Germany’s new favourite transport

The bus appears to be the Germans new favourite mode of transport with an increase of 230 percent in the number of long distance journeys taken week since the start of the year. The market was deregulated at the beginning of 2013.

Buses - Germany's new favourite transport
Photo: DPA

Deutsche Bahn's monopoly on long distance travel in Germany ended in January 2013 with a multi-party agreement that was intended to provide an environmentally-friendly and cheap alternative to cars and rising fuel prices.

According to a report published by the Federal Association of German bus and coach operators on Monday, there are 5,100 long-haul bus journeys operating in Germany each week. That compares to 1,540 in January – an increase of 230 percent.

Berlin is the most sought-after travel destination, with every fifth online search for the capital. Munich (7.2 percent),Hamburg (6.5 percent) and Cologne (4.4 percent) are the next most popular destinations., which released the online search figures, says it expects around a million passengers to travel by coach around the festive period.

The number of bus routes has also expanded substantially from 62 to 138. Smaller cities in the southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, which have not previously been served by long-distance buses, are said to have benefited most.

Private company MeinFernbus, which was founded in 2011, has shot to the top to clinch the largest market share with 39.7 percent, outperforming Deutsche Bahn (21.7 percent), Flixbus (14.8 percent) ADAC Postbus (7.5 percent) and city2city (4.8 percent).

None of this seems to bode well for train operators, who have also faced competition from budget airlines in recent years.

But some experts are advising passengers not to abandon train travel yet. Travel expert Heidi Tischmann, as cited in the Hamburger Abendblatt, points out that children often travel for free on trains and that people with a disability are often allowed to bring a carer on board for free.

While it is generally cheaper to travel by bus than by train, journey times are often considerably longer by bus.

When it comes to travelling in comfort, there is a large discrepancy on buses, with the amount of leg space ranging between 72 and 87 centimetres . Some coaches charge for luggage and only some offer internet access.

"The rapid increase in routes shows what vigour exists in this still-young market," Christiane Leonard, managing director of the Omnibus Association BDO, told the Tagesspiegel newspaper, adding that terminals will  need to be built to serve new destinations and to provide access to local transport. 

The era of ultra-cheap bus travel is unlikely to last forever however, with experts predicting that prices will bottom out once companies have established their share of the market.

READ MORE: Deutsche Post and ADAC unveil bus network

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Princely petrol pump prices miff motorists

Motorists in Germany have never shelled out so much to fill up their cars, as fuel costs reached an all-time high in 2011, according to drivers' association ADAC.

Princely petrol pump prices miff motorists

The group said on Thursday that increasing oil prices have caused the average prices of both petrol and diesel climb this year. The average cost of a litre of premium petrol in 2011 was €1.52, which is 12 cents more than 2010 and a 49 percent increase since 2001.

It is, however, owners of diesel cars that have been hit the hardest. An increase of 19 cents per litre has been reported by ADAC, bring diesel prices up to €1.41 per litre. This is an increase of 72 percent over the past ten years.

To put the prices in context, driving an Opel Corsa diesel around 15,000 kilometres a year would cost €371 more than it would have ten years ago, according to daily newspaper Die Welt. A petrol guzzling Audi A8 would cost €714 more.

“Lots of people are now reconsidering buying a diesel car,” said ADAC spokesman Andreas Hölzel to The Local. “Even though originally diesel cars paid less tax, the rising costs of natural resources have rendered it increasingly expensive,” he added.

One of the main reasons behind the surging costs is the price of oil. A decade ago, a barrel of oil -159 litres – cost roughly $20. Now, a single barrel costs over $100. The exchange rate between the euro and the US dollar, and the rocketing demand for oil from China and India have also both affected the price of fuel recently.

“It’s particularly difficult for car owners at the moment,” said Hölzel. “Germans are really giving thought to what they’re spending their money on, many choosing not to make long car journeys to keep costs down.”

Jessica Ware ([email protected])