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Last week we looked at how the liberalization of regulations around long-distance coach services is reshaping the transport map of Europe. We noted in particular how big changes are afoot in Germany. Now let’s take a peek at a new network of services linking England with France and beyond.
In recent months, budget coach operators have been edging into the cross-Channel market, providing deeply discounted fares for travel between London and the near continent. And no doubt giving established operator Eurolines cause for thought.
Megabus’ garish yellow-and-blue coaches (shades of Ryanair in their choice of livery) started running from London to four continental destinations last spring—a big step for a company that has hitherto focused on its extensive UK network.
The budget company offers now two routes across the Channel: London to Paris with an en-route stop in Boulogne, and London to Amsterdam with a stop in Brussels. Checking for travel dates in January 2013, we found fares from London on both Megabus routes to the continent from just four pounds (about €5) one-way. A real travel bargain.
iDBUS crosses the Channel
iDBUS launched in July this year. The long-distance coach operator is a wholly owned subsidiary of French rail giant SNCF. iDBUS based its first hub in Lille and last month opened a second base in Lyon.
iDBUS’ debut routes linked Lille with Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and London, but the company has expanded rapidly.
iDBUS departures from London
From London, for example, iDBUS now offer nine departures a day to France. There are seven coaches each day from London to Paris, with four of those services making an en-route stop in Lille. That’s only a short hop from the autoroute, so the Lille stop just adds an extra 25 minutes on to the London to Paris travel time (upping it from 8h 35m for the non-stop services to nine hours for those which make the short detour into Lille).
The two other departures from London each day run to Lyon, each stopping along the way at Charles de Gaulle Airport (which is located just off the autoroute northeast of the French capital). London to CDG takes eight hours, while London to Lyon takes 16h 30m.
Slow but cheap
Compared to the train, iDBUS is slow, slow, slow. London to Paris on Eurostar typically takes just 2hrs 20mins, and Eurostar’s direct London to Lyon service (which launches on May 4) will link the two cities in well under five hours.
So on both the Paris and Lyon routes the bus takes more than thrice as long as the train. But with one-way fares from London to Lille and Lyon of just £9 and £29 respectively, iDBUS makes a pitch to budget travelers who might otherwise just stay at home. These fares are very much cheaper than the best offers by rail.
London to Italy by coach
Last month, iDBUS added new services from Lyon to Italy to its network. Although they are not yet advertising through fares from London to Milan (via their Lyon hub), those with a real appetite for long-distance coach travel can now create budget itineraries from London to Italy.