The loss-making state company is discontinuing its IC buses. The competitor Blablabus is also stopping the offer. Market leader Flixbus almost becomes a monopoly – but also suffers from dwindling demand and complains about dumping prices of the railway.
Berlin – Deutsche Bahn AG is completely giving up its IC long-distance buses at the end of the year. Numerous lines had already been discontinued beforehand. As an alternative, there are now attractive and fast train connections, the state-owned company announced on request and confirmed the exit.
At the beginning of the week, competitor Blablabus announced that due to the corona pandemic from October 26th, all connections would be temporarily stopped, ticket prices would be refunded and the planned expansion would be postponed.
Read more about this: A drop in the bucket
For a long time, Deutsche Bahn AG had expensively expanded the long-distance bus business. Four years ago there were 18 IC bus routes and 40 connections from the Berlin-Linienbus (BLB) branch. The company operated at low prices and competed aggressively with the rail services, expanded strongly and incurred losses in the process. In 2015, Deutsche Bahn, which only had one stake, took over Berlin Linien Bus GmbH in full. At the end of 2016, the state-owned company discontinued the offers of the group subsidiary BLB due to political pressure and in the following years also shortened the network of IC buses, whose tickets can be booked online in the DB system, just as conveniently as train tickets.
Flixbus has meanwhile ousted almost all other competitors
Now the last lines are also gone. These include the connections from the Mannheim central bus station to Prague via Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Würzburg and Nuremberg as well as from the Munich central bus station to Zurich and from Leipzig to Prague. The long-distance buses are mainly used on routes on which the journey by train previously took longer and passengers have to change trains. There are now trains to Prague from Berlin and Bavaria every two hours, said a spokesman for the railway.
With the discontinuation of IC buses, market leader Flixbus is now almost a monopoly, there are hardly any other offers. In the eight years since the long-distance bus business was liberalized, the start-up from Munich has now ousted all other competitors or taken over the buses of Deutsche Post. However, the company is also suffering from dwindling demand due to the corona pandemic. Flixbus is currently only driving a third of the offer and is complaining about dumping prices from Deutsche Bahn.
“Private bus companies are suffering massively from the crisis, while Deutsche Bahn continues to receive unilateral subsidies,” Flixbus founder André Schwämmlein told our newspaper. The entire mobility industry is facing major challenges, and it is also about maintaining competition. Schwämmlein accuses the loss-making state-owned company of attacking long-distance buses with dumping prices for train journeys and thereby illegally using state financial aid.
The railway is to receive five billion euros as compensation for corona losses
This year alone, DB AG is to receive more than five billion euros from the federal government to compensate for corona losses. The federal government decided on the subsidies months ago, but has not yet been approved by the EU Commission in Brussels. The DB competitors on the railways and on the road are demanding strict conditions so that state aid does not harm competition.
In the long-distance bus business, Flixbus has conquered the market with abundant capital from international financial investors. The guarantee of success is the lean business model, which relies on digital technology, massive online ticket sales, strong networking and willing subcontractors. Flixbus itself has neither buses nor drivers, but cooperates with numerous medium-sized bus companies with whom the conditions for the operation of lines are negotiated.
Many of the partners are in big problems because of the pandemic, because people travel much less because of Corona and they avoid public transport because of the possible risk of contagion. Further reductions in offers cannot be ruled out at Flixbus either, after the long-distance bus connections have already been cut to a third of the previous level. The Flixtrain rail service was also temporarily discontinued. The Berlin – Stuttgart line was even dropped completely for the time being, the partner Leo Express is broke and makes Flixtrain serious allegations.