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6 million trips were made in 2016, aboard one of the famous “Macron cars”, these regular long-distance bus lines, long banned in France to protect the SNCF.

This figure, confirmed on Tuesday July 11 in the annual report of the regulatory authority for rail and road activities (Arafer), underlines the success of frequentation of this new means of transport: between August 2015 and June 2016, 3.4 million passengers had taken their seats aboard one of these famous coaches.

“The number of bus services has increased on average by 25% each quarter”, said Bernard Roman, President of the Arafer.

In December 2016, the French network had more than 1,000 connections and 204 cities served, against just over 600 connections the previous year.

Coaches promote travel

The Arafer survey also makes it possible to identify the profile of travelers. The regulator estimates that nearly a million trips would not have been made without this new mobility offer. As for the remaining 5 million trips, they would have been made mainly by personal car or carpooling (53%) and train (45%).

A rapidly changing market

In this rapidly consolidating market, the German Flixbus is leading the way with 50% of the market, ahead of Ouibus, a subsidiary of SNCF with 35%, and Isilines, a subsidiary of Transdev around 15%.

But, despite the success of attendance, the economic model of operators remains fragile. The number of bus companies was reduced from 5 to 3 as of the third quarter of 2016: Megabus was taken over by Flixbus, while Starshipper and Ouibus joined forces.

“None of these operators is currently profitable in this fiercely competitive market”, explains Bernard Roman. The bus occupancy rate remains fairly low, around 44%. However, Flixbus aims to reach 10 million passengers and profitability in 2018.

Access rules to bus stations

With 204 cities served as of June 15, the Arafer report also underlines that operators sometimes have to embark and disembark their passengers without established bus stations. In some cities, it also appears that they do not use the existing infrastructure. Therefore, the Arafer hears “Continue to work on the rules of access to bus stations, underlines the report (…), in order to guarantee transparent and equitable access to all actors ”.

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