‘Outdated’ rules mean French domestic journeys take more than a year to gain approval to operate
megabus.com announced on March 5 a new service linking Paris and Toulouse.
It is the first domestic service to be operated by megabus.com in France. It comes as the company, which has been expanding rapidly in mainland Europe, continues to press for changes to ‘outdated’ rules which for years have restricted scheduled coach travel within France.
There will be one overnight journey each day in each direction between Paris and Toulouse, with a journey time of around eight and a half hours. The service is part of the existing route which links London, Paris, Toulouse and Barcelona, but until now megabus.com has been prevented from carrying passengers who want to travel between Paris and Toulouse only.
Coach operators are still banned from operating domestic services in France, unless special ‘cabotage’ approval is given. Even then, less than 50% of the seats sold can be used by passengers travelling between cities in France. The other seats must remain empty or be filled with those travelling from or to countries outside French borders.
Edward Hodgson, Managing Director of megabus.com, said: “People in France love our service, but until now they have been prevented from enjoying the benefits of our low-cost coach travel between towns and cities in their own country. You could travel all the way from Paris to London, but you were not allowed to travel from Paris to Toulouse. In 2015, that is a bizarre state of affairs.
“After spending more than a year pressing the authorities to allow us to offer a service, we are pleased we have finally been given approval. We aim to offer the lowest cost travel of any transport mode and we are confident this will open up travel to people on low incomes. It will also help the economy by making it easier to move between these two key cities for education, employment, business or leisure activities.”
The French Government has begun the process to modernise the law and make it easier to operate inter-city coach services within the country. Legislation is currently being progressed through the French Parliament.
Edward added: “We support the steps being taken by the government to modernise the system. It is important that this legislation is passed without delay so consumers can benefit quickly. Only by fully modernising the system will people in France enjoy the great benefits that coach travel offers and which can complement the rail network.
“Our experience in the UK has shown that having modern rules for coaches benefits all public transport. We have seen a growing number of people use coach services in the UK and at the same time we have had the fastest growing rail network in Europe. That is a great result for everyone and means people have access to even more greener public transport.”