Premium long-distance coaches are the future means of transportation. A positive ecological balance, enhanced comfort and attractive fares are making coaches more and more popular around the world. This sector has also been booming in Germany since market deregulation came into force well over a year ago.
Sunday afternoon at the Central Bus Station in Stuttgart – a peak time for long-distance coaches. Every few minutes, coaches leave for destinations all over Germany, more than 3,700 journeys being made along almost 200 nationwide routes each day. Between July and October 2013, one million passengers were transported by MeinFernbus alone, the country´s market leader – business is booming. Since the market was deregulated in January 2013, long-distance coaches have become a popular alternative to car and rail travel for a growing number of people in Germany. For Elaine Schulz, 21, who spent the weekend with friends in Stuttgart and is now taking the bright green coach back home, the attractive fare was the decisive factor. Compared with traveling by train or car, she has saved more than half the costs.
"The nice thing about a coach ride is not only the cheaper fares, but also its superior comfort," says Elaine. For in spite of the affordable fares, passengers still expect comfort – air conditioning, spacious toilets and comfortable, adjustable seats with sufficient leg room are regarded as standard. Heinz Kiess, Product Manager at MAN Truck & Bus, can only agree. During a field test, he and his colleagues analyzed in detail what was of most importance to coach passengers. More than half the travelers taking part in this market analysis were younger than twenty-five, 80 percent were under thirty-five. "In the past, it was mostly older people who utilised coaches," Mr. Kiess explains. This young target group has new and different needs. There is a demand for plug sockets to charge mobile phones and laptops, free Wi-Fi, borrowable iPads offering magazines and movies, as well as vending machines for drinks and snacks – which are already standard features in many long-distance coaches.
"Our passengers aboard should feel comfortable,“ says Andreas Schröder, summing up his goal. The Bavarian coach operator owns a fleet of almost forty coaches, seven of them being on the road every day for MeinFernbus and traveling right across Germany. And Mr. Schröder uses only the MAN Lion’s Coach, as it isoptimized for longer distances. "The level floor facilitates access to and from the coach, and seat spacing is generous – it´s just a very functional vehicle," explains Mr. Schröder. This is the sixth time that Elaine has traveled on a long-distance coach. Since Germany´s railway monopoly toppled in January 2013, she has rarely taken the train. "I´m a repeat offender," she says, smiling. The results of Heinz Kiess´ survey substantiate this. "Once people have used a travel coach, they'll keep coming back. Passengers have realized that the bus has evolved into a modern, safe and economically viable means of transport for all generations," says Mr. Kiess.
Economically viable – this is also a catchphrase for operators. Apart from the interior fittings, they also pay special attention to the cost-effectiveness of buses. In the EfficientLine version of the Euro 6-compliant MAN Lion’s Coach, modern technology, driver information systems, orientation and training, as well as selected services are combined to lower the total cost of ownership. In the case of the Euro 6 version of the new NEOPLAN Cityliner, aerodynamics and lightweight design improve fuel efficiency. The Cityliner can run on 19.8 liters per 100 km – an outstanding value as confirmed by the TÜV Süd technical certification agency. Its low fuel costs have a beneficial side effect, leading to a positive environmental balance and giving every passenger a clear conscience.
While long-distance coacjes are becoming increasingly popular in Germany, they have long been the most important means of transport in other countries. In Malaysia, for instance, coaches are used by 70 percent of all travelers. One third of the providers rely on coaches with MAN chassis. In Turkey too, coaches are the main means of long-distance transport due to the underdeveloped rail and airline networks.
Images © Sorin Morar
No matter how long the journey, passengers on board this stylish coach reach even far away destinations safely and comfortably, all while guaranteeing maximum economy and minimum environmental impact.