IRU opened its 2016 series of global debates on long distance bus and coach services and innovation with a dedicated forum in Brussels. Prominent speakers from the research community, coach operators, ride sharing platforms, information and ticketing aggregators, and representatives from the European institutions participated in the event.
The debate focused on two main issues: a) the threats and opportunities presented by the on-going market opening of long distance bus services in Europe, and b) the impact of innovation on services and customers.
It became clear that the recent German and French market openings led to an important (in times not in %) and continuous growth in customers using intercity coach services. Market actors have also been extremely innovative in creating completely new market products (such as night intercity services) and using regular lines for tourism transport. Yet a number of problem areas were also identified related to the lack of terminals and access to them, the lack of professional drivers to satisfy exponentially growing demand and the interconnection with other modes. The strengths and weaknesses of the two currently dominating market models to deliver quality service to customers, both in the short and long run, namely, competition for the market (concessions), and competition in the market (market opening) were also amply discussed.
The debate on smart technology, technology start-ups and aggregators brought the innovation aspect in the discussion. These new market intermediaries are opening a second large channel to bring new customers and substantially increase the use of bus and coach services, both in urban, interurban and coach tourism, whilst at the same time promoting the image of bus and coach sector.
All event’s presentations can be downloaded from the IRU website at: http://www.iru.org/en_bus-coach-crossroads-long-distance-innovation.