• 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
VW to pay US suppliers $1.2 bln over Dieselgate
Volkswagen model vehicles on a dealer lot in Bedford, Massachusetts, USA. Photo: Cj Gunther/Picture Alliance/DPA

German auto giant Volkswagen has agreed to pay US suppliers $1.2 billion to settle claims emanating from the "Dieselgate" pollution scandal, the firm and suppliers said late Friday.

This Week in History
75 years since one of Holocaust's worst massacres
Photo: DPA

On Thursday, German president Joachim Gauck spoke in Kiev 75 years after the Nazis slaughtered 33,771 Jews during one of the worst single massacres of the Holocaust.

Six things you need to know about troubled Deutsche Bank

Shares in Deutsche bank plunged on Friday morning, dragging down other European banks and markets worldwide. Here are six things to know about Germany's biggest lender.

Deutsche Bahn jacks up prices for first time in 3 years
Photo: DPA

Germany's main rail provider, the state-owned Deutsche Bahn (DB), announced on Friday that it will raise prices on long-distance train travel.

Baby found alive in suitcase with skeleton in Hanover
File photo: DPA.

A baby has been found alive, along with the skeleton of another infant inside of a suitcase in Hanover, police reported on Friday.

Morocco to speed up repatriation of illegal migrants
Photo: DPA

Morocco has agreed to streamline the procedures for the repatriation of citizens living illegally in Germany, the royal court said late on Thursday.

890,000 refugees arrived in Germany last year - not 1.1m
Photo: DPA

Previous reports had suggested that around 1.1 million people entered Germany to seek asylum last year. But now the German government has confirmed the number was actually lower.

Racist attacks cast cloud over Dresden Unity Day planning
A police vehicle in Dresden. Photo: DPA.

As Dresden prepares to host Germany’s national Unity Day celebrations on Monday, the capital of the eastern state of Saxony is upping security after a mosque was targeted by a homemade bomb.

Sinking Deutsche Bank stock sends shock across Europe
Photo: DPA

Shares in Germany's biggest lender Deutsche Bank plummeted on the Frankfurt stock market on Friday, dragging other European banks and global markets down with it, after reports some customers were pulling money out.

The Local List
10 things you never knew about German reunification
Reunification celebrations in Hanover in 2014. Photo: DPA

With German Unity Day (October 3rd) happening on Monday, Germans are looking forward to a three-day weekend. But did you know these facts about reunification and German Unity Day?

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
6,789
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd