Well, that happened faster than expected! This was my outlook for the long-distance bus market in Germany year, from about two weeks ago, in late December:
Outlook for 2015
Mergers, or further shutdowns of minor market players seem likely for the coming year.
And this week, we already had the first big merger. Actually, it was even the biggest possible merger, between the two market leaders, Flixbus from Munich and Mein Fernbus from Berlin. That’s probably why even BILD.de reported on it, quite extensively. Initially, there was not much to say about this, beyond what was reported there, but now there are a few things.
Germany might be ahead in a lot of things, but long-distance bus travel is definitely not one of them. Here Germany is a developing country and many other countries, from Romania to Chile, are far ahead. The German development* began (very slowly) in 2009, with the founding of DeinBus.de, the pioneers in this market. After a somewhat long court battle with Deutsche Bahn which DeinBus won, the government decided to change laws to set the ground rules for the new market, effective from January 1st, 2013. This political backing created a sufficiently reliable regulatory environment for a number of players to enter the market, some small, some with serious backing.
Initially, this let to a very fragmented market. Fragmentation, the enthusiasm of early-adopters, growth of passenger numbers and routes offered, was what arguably defined most of 2013. Growth continued in 2014: 247 lines were offered in early 2014, compared to 109 lines, in early 2013 (BMVI), passenger numbers increased by over 100%, year over year (Fernbusse.de). Just by looking at these numbers, 2014 was more of the same (of what happened in 2013), and for same players in the market, this might essentially be true, but qualitatively, there was some major events that signal upcoming changes. Changes towards consolidation and more difficult, competitive market. In this article, we will take a look at some of the major events of the long-distance bus market in Germany in 2014.
* Technically, this development is actually rather a revival of long-distance bus travel, but the focus of this article should not be ancient history.