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Coach (scheduled transport)

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Coach (scheduled transport)

An intercity bus service (North American English) or intercity coach service (British English and Commonwealth English), also called a long-distance, express, or highway bus or coach service, is a public transport service using coaches to carry passengers significant distances between different cities, towns, or other populated areas. These buses use diesel fuel. Unlike a transit bus service, which has frequent stops throughout a city or town, an intercity bus service generally has a single stop at one location in or near a city, and travels long distances without stopping at all. Intercity bus services may be operated by government agencies or private industry, for profit and not for profit.[1] Intercity coach travel can serve areas or countries with no train services, or may be set up to compete with trains by providing a more flexible or cheaper alternative.

Intercity bus services are of prime importance in lightly populated rural areas that often have little or no public transportation.[2]

Intercity bus services are one of four common transport methods between cities, not all of which are available in all places. The others are by airliner, train, and private automobile.[3]

Characteristics of intercity buses/coaches

Main article: Coach (bus)

Intercity buses, as they hold passengers for significant periods of time on long journeys, are designed for comfort. A sleeper bus is an example of a vehicle with optimum amenity for the longest travel times.

Route and operation

An intercity coach service may depart from a bus station with facilities for travellers or from a simple roadside bus stop. A coachway interchange is a term (in the United Kingdom) for a stopping place on the edge of a town, with connecting local transport. Park and ride facilities allow passengers to begin or complete their journeys by automobile. Intercity bus routes may follow a direct highway or freeway/motorway for shortest journey times, or travel via a scenic route for the enjoyment of passengers.

Intercity buses may run less frequently with fewer stops than a transit bus service. One common arrangement is to have several stops at the beginning of the trip, and several near the end, with the majority of the trip is spent non-stop on a highway. Some stops may have service restrictions, such as "boarding only" (also called "pickup only") and "discharge only" (also called "set-down only"). Routes aimed at commuters may have most or all scheduled trips in the morning, heading to an urban central business district, with trips in the evening mainly heading toward suburbs.

Intercity coaches may also be used to supplement or replace another transport service, for example when a train or airline route is not in service.

History of services

The development of intercity bus services began in the United States in the early 20th century, providing a new means of transport between cities in North America.[4]

In 1913, Carl Eric Wickman, frustrated about being unable to sell a seven-passenger automobile on the showroom floor of the dealership where he worked, purchased the vehicle himself, and stated using it to transport miners between Hibbing and Alice, Minnesota, United States. He charged a fare of 15¢ per ride, and at a time when gasoline was just 4¢ a US gallon, profits were high. He began providing this service regularly in what would start a new company and industry.[5] The company would one day be known as Greyhound.

Breakdowns were common in the early years of coach travel due to the low quality of roads.[6]

In 1914, Pennsylvania, United States was the first state to pass regulations for bus service in order to prevent monopolies of the industry from forming.[7] All remaining U.S. states would soon follow.[6]

Demand for intercity bus services has grown since the 1920s and 1930s, a time when both roads and vehicles improved.[2] In 1923, there were five companies with fleets of 100 or more vehicles. By 1925, this number had increased to 21.[8]

The 1930s to the 1950s saw the development of bus stations for intercity transport. Many expanded from simple stops into major architecturally designed terminals that included shopping and other businesses.[9]

Intercity bus transport increased in speed, efficiency and popularity until the 1950s and 1960s, when as the popularity of the private automobile has increased, the use of intercity bus service has declined. For example, in Canada in the 1950s, 120 million passengers boarded intercity bus service each year; in the 1960s, this number declined to 50 million. During the 1990s, it was down to 10 million.[10]

In 1982, the intercity bus industry in the United States was deregulated.[11] The United Kingdom also deregulated coach services during the 1980s.[12]


Statistically, intercity bus service is considered to be a very safe mode of transportation. For example, in the United States there are about 0.5 fatalities per 100 million passenger miles traveled.[13]

When accidents do occur, the large passenger capacity of buses means accidents are disasterous in their magnitude. For example, the Kempsey bus crash in Australia on 22 December 1989 involved two full tourist coaches, each travelling at 100 km/h, colliding head-on: 35 people died and 41 were injured.

Intercity coach travel by country


Intercity busing has been in decline for many years. In Canada, in the 1950s, 120 million passengers boarded intercity bus service each year. In the 1960s, this number declined to 50 million. During the 1990s, it was down to 10 million.[10]

In 2012, cuts to service were announced by Greyhound Canada in Alberta[14] at the same time that Acadian Coach Lines announced its pending closure in Atlantic Canada.[15]


Intercity coach service in Germany became important in the decades following the Second World War, as the Deutsche Bundesbahn and the German Federal Postal operated numerous bus routes in major cities and metropolitan areas associated with each other. The buses featured many routes, a low-cost alternative to rail that was quicker and more convenient. However, with the increasing prosperity of society and the growing use of the automobile, the demand fell significantly, so most of these lines were abolished in the 1970s and 1980s.

New long-distance bus lines can be added after the Passenger Transportation Act (PBefG) but can only be introduced if they do not compete with existing rail or bus lines. Since Germany - in contrast to many other European countries - has a well-developed rail network to all the major cities and metropolitan areas, the domestic marketing of long distance buses in Germany is much less significant than in many other countries. The federal government intends, however, to allow the Busfernlinienverkehr to amend § 13 PBefG.[16] Germany now has the Federal Administrative Court order dated 26 April 2010, 14:09 Az 3 C, (see press release of the Federal Administrative Court No. 56/2010) to existing § 13 para 2 PBefG decided that, contrary to decades of practice "only" clear price advantages for a bus in comparison to existing rail connections demonstrating a "substantial improvement" within the meaning of § 13 paragraph 2 represent PBefG. It is therefore to be expected in the near future that appropriate distance bus services within Germany must be approved by the competent authorities.

An exception is the Berlin traffic. A long-distance bus network linking Berlin with Hamburg and several other German locations was created at the time of German division because of the small number of train services between the cities. It still exists today.

The existing lines are often international lines that exist in almost all European countries, and for the transportation within Germany, there was a ban.[17]


As the railway network in Ireland connects only the largest cities with Dublin, it is a dense and cheap bus network that is often the better choice. The main operators in the country are the State Bus Éireann and CityLink. The bus service between Dublin and Belfast is guaranteed by the Irish with a Bus Eireann and Ulsterbus. Northern Ireland operates 24-hour bus service.


Because of the weak-developed rail network and the small size of the country and the resulting low domestic air traffic, the long-distance bus cooperative Egged is the main public transport service in the country. Because of the widespread network, Egged is considered one of the largest bus companies in the world, in part because of the long-distance bus lines.


Norway has long-distance bus routes within the country. They operate in barely inhabited areas, including mountains, and affect the construction of a comprehensive railway network. Except in the area Oslo, Norway, therefore, has only a rather wide-meshed rail network, which is north of the Arctic Circle to the stations in Fauske and Bodø, and to the north of Narvik and the Swedish rail network is connected. Many of the routes are based on random railways. In addition to this web, they provide public passenger transport by many more companies within Norway than airlines, shipping lines (including the Hurtigruten) and bus lines, including many long-distance bus lines. In the north of the country (especially in the county Finnmarken), a particular type of bus is used, which has both a passenger compartment and a loading area in the rear to take account for the fact that many remote villages are connected to the outside world only via these buses, thus achieving a large part of the cargo by bus to the city.


Intercity bus transportation has risen dramatically in Pakistan due to the decline of Pakistan Railways[18] and the in-affordable prices of Airplanes for the average Pakistani. Numerous companies have started operating within the country such as Daewoo Express and Niazi Express and have gained considerable popularity due to their reliability, security and good service.[19] Smaller vans are used for transportation in the mountainous North where narrow and dangerous roads make it impossible for the movement of larger buses.


Intercity bus travel in Serbia, as well as in the countries of former Yugoslavia, is very popular in proportion to travel by rail and air. In some regions, data has shown that intercity bus routes have transported over ten times the amount of passengers carried by intercity trains on the same competing routes.[20] It has been a trend around Serbia and the Balkan region that small towns and some villages have their own flagship bus carrier, oftentimes branded with the last name of the family whose owner runs that bus company. Many such buses connect rural Serbia with Belgrade at at Belgrade's capital bus station, at which the largest intercity bus operator is Lasta Beograd which operates from Serbia to many countries in Europe.


Switzerland has an extremely dense network of interconnected rail, bus and ship lines, including some long-distance bus lines. Although Switzerland is a mountainous country, the rail network is denser than Germany's. Switzerland is an exception to the rule that long-distance bus lines are established especially in countries with inadequate railway network, or in areas with low population density. Some of the railway and main bus routes on Italian territory also serve to shorten the distance between Swiss towns. From Germany lines run from Frankfurt am Main, Heidelberg, Karlsruhe to Basel and Lucerne.

Long-distance bus services in Switzerland:

United Kingdom

There is an extensive network of scheduled coach transport in the United Kingdom. However, passenger numbers are a fraction of those travelling by rail.[21] Coach travel companies often require passengers to purchase tickets in advance of travel, that is they may not be bought on board. The distinction between bus and coach services is not absolute, and some coach services, especially in Scotland, operate as local bus services over sections of route where there is no other bus service. National Express Coaches has operated services under that name since 1972. Megabus started in 2004 and Greyhound UK in 2009. There are many other operators. Receipts in 2004 were £1.8 billion (2008 prices) and grew significantly between 1980 and 2010.

United States

In the mid-1950s more than 2,000 buses operated by Greyhound, Trailways, and other companies connected 15,000 cities and towns. Passenger volume decreased as a result of expanding road and air travel, and urban decay that caused many neighborhoods with bus depots to become more dangerous. In 1960, American intercity buses carried 140 million riders; the rate decreased to 40 million by 1990, and continued to decrease until 2006.[22]

By 1997, intercity bus transportation accounted for only 3.6% of travel in the United States.[23] In the late 1990s, however, Chinatown bus lines that connected New York and Boston's Chinatowns began operating. They became popular with non-Chinese college students and others who wanted inexpensive transportation, and between 1997 and 2007 Greyhound lost 60% of its market share in the northeast United States to the Chinatown buses. During the following decade, new bus lines such as Megabus and BoltBus emulated the Chinatown buses' practices of low prices and curbside stops on a much larger scale, both in the original Northeast Corridor and elsewhere, while introducing yield management techniques to the industry.[24][22][25]

By 2010 curbside buses' annual passenger volume had risen by 33% and they accounted for more than 20% of all bus trips.[22] One analyst estimated that curbside buses that year carried at least 2.4 billion passenger miles in the Northeast Corridor, compared to 1.7 billion passenger miles for Amtrak trains.[24] Traditional depot-based bus lines also grew, benefiting from what the American Bus Association called "the Megabus effect",[22] and both Greyhound and its subsidiary Yo! Bus, which competed directly with the Chinatown buses, benefited after the federal government shut several Chinatown lines down in June 2012.[25]

American intercity buses focus on medium-haul trips between 200 and 300 miles; airplanes perform the bulk of longer trips and automobiles shorter ones. For most medium-haul trips curbside bus fares are less than the cost of automobile gasoline, and one tenth that of Amtrak. Buses are also four times more fuel-efficient than automobiles. Their Wi-Fi service is also popular; one study estimated that 92% of Megabus and BoltBus passengers planned to use an electronic device.[22] New lower fares introduced by Greyhound on traditional medium-distance routes and rising gasoline prices have increased ridership across the network and made bus travel cheaper than all alternatives.

Safety on US intercity buses

On August 4, 1952, Greyhound Lines had its deadliest accident when two Greyhound buses collided head-on along then-U.S. Route 81 near Waco, Texas. The fuel tanks of both buses then ruptured, bursting into flames. Of the 56 persons aboard both coaches, 28 were killed, including both drivers.[26][27]

On May 9, 1980, a freight ship collided with the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, resulting in several vehicles, including a Greyhound bus, falling into the Tampa Bay. All 26 people on the bus perished, along with nine others. This is the largest loss of life on a single Greyhound coach to date.

On March 5, 2010, a bus operated by Tierra Santa Inc. crashed on Interstate 10 in Arizona, killing six and injuring sixteen passengers. The bus was not carrying insurance, and had also been operating illegally because the company had applied for authority to operate an interstate bus service, but had failed to respond to requests for additional information.[28][29]

Security on US intercity buses

Though generally rare, various incidents have occurred over time involving both drivers and passengers on intercity buses.

Security became a concern following the September 11 attacks. Less than a month later, on October 3, 2001, Damir Igric, a passenger on a Greyhound bus, slit the throat of the driver, killing Igric, and six other passengers as the bus crashed. It was determined there was no connection between the September 11 attacks and this incident. Nevertheless, this raised concern.

On September 30, 2002, another Greyhound driver was assaulted near Fresno, California, resulting in two passenger deaths after the bus then rolled off an embankment and crashed.[30] Following this attack, driver shields were installed on most Greyhound buses that now prevent passengers from directly having contact the driver while the bus is in motion, even if the shield is forced open. On buses which do not have the shield, the seats directly behind the driver are generally off limits.[31]

On July 30, 2008 (no jobs), Tim McLean, a passenger on a Greyhound bus, was stabbed, beheaded and cannibalized while riding the bus near Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. The perpetrator, 40-year-old Vince Weiguang Li, was found to be not criminally responsible for the murder and was remanded to a high-security mental health facility.[32]

The growing popularity in the United States of new bus lines such as Megabus and BoltBus that pick up and drop off passengers on the street instead of bus depots has led to a rise in the perceived security of intercity buses. Megabus states that a quarter of its passengers are unaccompanied women.[22]

Urban-suburban bus line

Urban-suburban bus line is generally categorized as public transit, especially for large metropolitan transit networks. Usually these routes cover a long distance compared to most transit bus routes, but still short — usually 40 miles in one direction. An urban-suburban bus line generally connects a suburban area to the downtown core.

The vehicle can be something as simple as a merely refitted school bus (which sometimes already contains overhead storage racks) or a minibus. Often a suburban coach may be used, which is a standard transit bus modified to have some of the functionality of an interstate coach. An example would be the Suburban line employed by TransLink (Vancouver), typically going from the downtown core to suburban cities such as Delta and White Rock. In such case, the vehicles are modified standard transit bus, but with only one door and air conditioning. The vehicles provide accommodation for the disabled (through a lift or ramp at the front), and thus has a few high-back seats, usually in the front, that can be folded up for wheelchairs. The rest of the seats are reclining upholstered seats and have individual lights and overhead storage bins. Because it is a commuter bus, it has some (but not much) standing room, stop-request devices, and a farebox. This model also has a bike rack at the front to accommodate two bicycles.

Some lines use a full-size interstate coach with on board toilet, such as the "TrainBus" service of West Coast Express. Suburban models in the United States are often used in Park-and-Ride services, and are very common in the New York City area, where New Jersey Transit Bus Operations is a major operator serving widespread bedroom communities.

See also


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