News

Deutsche Bahn buses coming to London

28 Apr 2015 by Alex McWhirter

Germany's Deutsche Bahn will run a three-times weekly double-decker bus service from Dusseldorf to London Victoria via Antwerp from next month.

The service, which starts on May 21, follows a trial that operated for a couple of weeks during the Christmas and New Year period.

But, according to Dutch media reports, the overall travel time will exceed ten hours.

Five years ago, DB revealed plans for its ICE high-speed trains to whisk UK travellers from London to Germany in a matter of hours (see news, October 2010). It never happened.

Initially, it was hoped DB's through trains would run in time for the 2012 Olympics. But in the months and years that followed, DB's optimism evaporated in the face of mounting problems involved in getting its ICE trains approved by the regulatory bodies (see news, November 2012).

Then, having finally been allowed to operate ICEs through the Channel Tunnel, DB abruptly postponed all plans to run to London blaming ongoing technical issues and the "changing business environment" (see news, February 2014).

So, instead of high-speed trains, it's something of a letdown to discover that DB will be launching a London bus service instead.

Why are we reporting on this development in the first place? Simply, because both DB and France's SNCF, as we previously reported (see news, December 3) have themselves become bus operators after decades of being shielded from surface (bus) competition.

Not only that, but the competition that DB and SNCF will soon face is spurring both organisations to improve their stagnating domestic rail businesses.

DB has faced deregulated bus competition on domestic routes since January 2013 and that's why it decided to enter the bus business.

It might seem strange to UK business travellers but, in Germany, some do use these domestic buses because of their convenience. Services connect towns and cities with main airports and, during the recent rail strikes in Germany, proved a lifeline to travellers.

SNCF will face the same competition later this year when France deregulates its domestic buses.

Recently, both rail operators announced restructuring plans in an effort to revive traffic. It is to be hoped that passengers will be the beneficiaries.

bahn.com, sncf.com

Alex McWhirter

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