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Express bus to London?

by Nicky Gardner


There was a time when Deutsche Bahn (DB) only operated trains. Now they are emerging as serious players in the bus business. We just wonder if they have London in their sights? Their IC-Bus network is expanding and they already have a route from Düsseldorf to Antwerp. Extending it to London might be a way of delivering on DB's oft-repeated claim that it would enter the cross-Channel market.

Ten years ago this autumn, Deutsche Bahn (DB) axed the sole surviving EuroCity train from Nuremberg to Prague. It revived the link between the two cities in August 2009, but with express coaches substituting for trains. The opening of a new cross-border motorway earlier that year had dramatically reduced the travel time by road between the two cities. The launch of that coach service to Prague marked DB’s debut as an operator of long-distance international coach routes.

Five years later — and now branded IC Bus (for ‘Inter-City bus’) — DB’s network of express coach services extends to eight countries beyond Germany’s borders, with France about to join the club. The more relaxed regulatory environment for long-distance coach services in Germany, which came into effect last year, has led to a blossoming of cheap routes run by new market entrants such as FlixBus, MeinFernbus and ADAC Postbus.

IC Bus routes were initially conceived as a way of plugging gaps in the rail network. That thinking has prompted routes like Frankfurt to Luxembourg and Düsseldorf to Antwerp — there are no direct trains linking either city pair.

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