Express coaches - the story behind a public transport success

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe


Despite huge subsidies, considerable efforts and general goodwill, there is ample evidence that public transport market shares are in decline throughout Europe. Our paper studies a public transport niche which has experienced the opposite: despite political opposition, legal barriers and lack of financial support, express coaches have forced their way towards their current successful standing, in a de facto deregulated market. Major issues in the early years were, i.a., strict regulations of entry, including extensive ‘needs tests’, opposition from railways and so on. Today, the winds have changed and the dispute is about the degree of competition in this new market, which is a sign of how successful the innovations have been. Another main challenge facing the coach industry is the effects of the new driving and rest time regulation (Regulation (EC) No. 561/2006). The study object is the Norwegian Coach market, but with extensive references to parallel, but different developments in Sweden, Denmark, the UK, and several other countries. The social impact of coaches is impressive. We find that local governments depend to an increasing degree on coach services in order to fulfil their service obligations (school transport etc). Using the Norwegian National Transport Model, we estimate the net benefit provided by the coach industry. We find that coaches contribute to a welfare gain equivalent to €200m a year, or nearly €3bn over 25 years. To grasp the magnitude, this is equal to the net benefit of the entire public transport investments laid down in the National Transport Plan for the ten-year period 2010-2019. Finally, our paper summarises success factors, which include market orientation, innovation, cooperation and a strong determination to overcome legal barriers. There is considerable transferability of the coach industry’s experiences and achievements to countries in their early stages of deregulation and indeed to local public transport in general.


Permission to publish abstract given by AET.