By Mirianna la Grasta | @mirilagrasta
European transport startup FlixBus is launching its intercity coach services in the UK today, in a bid to boost the country’s economy as it eases its lockdown restrictions. The destinations available at present are Birmingham, Portsmouth, Bristol and Guildford, with all coaches leaving from London. The company will start operating in the UK with around 200 trips a week, and is planning to expand its routes and network within the next 12 months, to carry onboard several million passengers from all over the country.
The startup has decided to partner with authorised local, family-run coach companies from across the UK that will help them run the four initial services, all starting from London, with a total of six coaches, and passenger fares as low as £2.99.
“To start with, we will be connecting London, Birmingham, Bristol, Portsmouth and Guildford to Europe’s largest intercity bus network, with more UK cities to come. This is just the beginning – we have great plans for Britain and aim to grow to ‘market leader’ by 2025,” said Andreas Schorling, Managing Director FlixBus UK.
The Munich-based firm currently offers more than 400,000 connections to 2,500 destinations every day, across 32 countries. Starting today, FlixBus is also resuming its services to mainland Europe, some of which connect London to other major cities like Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam.
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The company has ensured disinfection, extra cleaning and safe social-distancing onboard will be their top priorities, with all coaches being disinfected before every journey, and undergoing thorough professional cleaning. FlixBus is asking all passengers, as well as drivers, to wear face masks, and has announced it will leave one clear row immediately before and after every seated passenger to guarantee social distancing.
The startup, which was founded in 2013, had raised around €500 million (£450 million) last year ahead of its 2020 expansion. But it was ultimately forced to halt all cross-border operations in March, as countries began imposing lockdowns to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schorling is confident that, with the UK easing restrictions on travel, and more people wanting to visit family and friends, coaches will be one of the most convenient ways to move from city to city.
“With the lockdown restrictions easing, people will want to start travelling to see family and friends, go back to university or college or travel for work, and we will offer a safe, comfortable and affordable way to do this. On top of that,” he argued, “travelling by coach is the greenest way of travelling in Britain. As we are partnering with local firms, we will also be giving a boost to businesses that have been hit hard by COVID-19.”