An integral bodywork MCI 102DL3, an intercity bus owned by Greyhound Lines, typical of those used in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Two Oxford Tube body on chassis vehicles at the Buckingham Palace Road terminus

An intercity bus service (North American English) or intercity coach service (British English and Commonwealth English), also called a long-distance, express, over-the-road, commercial, long-haul, 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. 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]



Behind time, anonymous engraving of a stagecoach in England.

The first intercity scheduled transport service was called the stagecoach and originated in the 17th century. Crude coaches were being built from the 16th century in England, but without suspension, these coaches achieved very low speeds on the poor quality rutted roads of the time. By the mid 17th century, a basic stagecoach infrastructure was being put in place.[4] The first stagecoach route started in 1610 and ran from Edinburgh to Leith. This was followed by a steady proliferation of other routes around the country.[5]

A string of coaching inns operated as stopping points for travellers on the route between London and Liverpool by the mid 17th century. The coach would depart every Monday and Thursday and took roughly ten days to make the journey during the summer months. They also became widely adopted for travel in and around London by mid-century and generally travelled at a few miles per hour. Shakespeare's first plays were staged at coaching inns such as The George Inn, Southwark.[6]

The Hyde Park Gate in London, erected by the Kensington Turnpike Trust. These trusts helped to stimulate a sustained period of road improvement in the 18th century.

The speed of travel remained constant until the mid-18th century. Reforms of the turnpike trusts, new methods of road building and the improved construction of coaches all led to a sustained rise in the comfort and speed of the average journey—from an average journey length of 2 days for the Cambridge-London route in 1750 to a length of under 7 hours in 1820. Robert Hooke helped in the construction of some of the first spring-suspended coaches in the 1660s and spoked wheels with iron rim brakes were introduced, improving the characteristics of the coach.[5]

In 1754, a Manchester-based company began a new service called the "Flying Coach". It was advertised with the following announcement: "However incredible it may appear, this coach will actually (barring incidents) arrive in London in four days and a half after leaving Manchester." A similar service was begun from Liverpool three years later, using coaches with steel spring suspension. This coach took an unprecedented three days to reach London with an average speed of eight miles per hour.[6]

Mail coach decorated in the black and scarlet Post Office livery near Newmarket, Suffolk in 1827.

Even more dramatic improvements to coach speed were made by John Palmer at the British Post Office, who commissioned a fleet of mail coaches to deliver the post across the country.[7] His experimental coach left Bristol at 4 pm on 2 August 1784 and arrived in London just 16 hours later.[8]

The golden age of the stagecoach was during the Regency period, from 1800 to 1830. The era saw great improvements in the design of the coaches, notably by John Besant in 1792 and 1795. His coach had a greatly improved turning capacity and braking system, and a novel feature that prevented the wheels from falling off while the coach was in motion.[7] Obadiah Elliott registered the first patent for a spring-suspension vehicle. Each wheel had two durable steel leaf springs on each side and the body of the carriage was fixed directly to the springs attached to the axles.[9]

Steady improvements in road construction were also made at this time, most importantly the widespread implementation of Macadam roads up and down the country. Coaches in this period travelled at around 12 miles per hour and greatly increased the level of mobility in the country, both for people and for mail. Each route had an average of four coaches operating on it at one time - two for both directions and a further two spares in case of a breakdown en route.


The development of railways in the 1830s spelt the end for the stagecoaches across Europe and America, with only a few companies surviving to provide services for short journeys and excursions until the early years of the 20th century.[10][11]

The first motor coaches were acquired by operators of those horse-drawn vehicles. W. C. Standerwick of Blackpool, England acquired its first motor charabanc in 1911,[12] and Royal Blue from Bournemouth acquired its first motor charabanc in 1913.[13] Motor coaches were initially used only for excursions.[14]

A Greyhound bus in 1939.
A Chevrolet bus of Nepal Transport Service in 1961.

In 1919, Royal Blue took advantage of a rail strike to run a coach service from Bournemouth to London. The service was so successful that it expanded rapidly.[15] In 1920 the Minister of Transport Eric Campbell Geddes was quoted in Punch magazine as saying "I think it would be a calamity if we did anything to prevent the economic use of charabancs"[16] and expressed concern at the problems caused to small charabanc and omnibus operators in parliament.[17]

In America, Carl Eric Wickman began providing the first service in 1913. Frustrated about being unable to sell a seven-passenger automobile on the showroom floor of the dealership where he worked, he purchased the vehicle himself and started using it to transport miners between Hibbing and Alice, Minnesota. He began providing this service regularly in what would start a new company and industry.[18] The company would one day be known as Greyhound.

In 1914, Pennsylvania was the first state to pass regulations for bus service in order to prevent monopolies of the industry from forming.[19] All remaining U.S. states would soon follow.[20]

The coach industry expanded rapidly in the 1920s, a period of intense competition.[21][22] The Road Traffic Act 1930 in the UK introduced a national system of regulation of passenger road transport and authorised local authorities to operate transport services.[23] It also imposed a speed limit of 30 mph for coaches[24] whilst removing any speed limit for private cars.[25]

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.[26] 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.[27]

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. Intercity buses, also known as coaches or motor coaches are almost always high-floor buses, with separate luggage hold mounted below the passenger compartment. In contrast to transit buses, motor coaches typically feature forward-facing seating, with no provision for standing. Other accommodations may include onboard restrooms, televisions, and overhead luggage space. A sleeper bus is an example of a vehicle with optimum amenity for the longest travel times, specially adapted for passengers to sleep in.

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 and 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 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.


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 according to the National Safety Council.[28]

Crashes involving intercity buses can be disastrous in their magnitude because of the large number of passengers they are capable of carrying. For example, the Kempsey bus crash in Australia on 22 December 1989 involved two full tourist coaches, each traveling at 100 km/h, colliding head-on: 35 people died and 41 were injured.

Intercity coach travel by country



Intercity coach service is the only public transit to reach many urban centres in Canada, and Via Rail services are very sporadic outside the Québec City–Windsor Corridor. Coach service is mostly privately owned and operated, and tends to be regionally focused. Greyhound Canada, once Canada's biggest intercity carrier, ceased operations in 2021.[29] Major operators are listed below.

United States

Greyhound Lines intercity bus in New York City

In the mid-1950s more than 2,000 buses operated by Greyhound Lines, 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.[30]

By 1997, intercity bus transportation accounted for only 3.6% of travel in the United States.[31] In the late 1990s, however, Chinatown bus lines that connected New York with Boston and Philadelphia'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.[30][32][33]

By 2010 curbside buses' annual passenger volume had risen by 33% and they accounted for more than 20% of all bus trips.[30] 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.[32] Traditional depot-based bus lines also grew, benefiting from what the American Bus Association called "the Megabus effect", akin to the Southwest Effect,[30] 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.[33]

Between 2006 and 2014, American intercity buses focused on medium-haul trips between 200 (322 km) and 300 miles (483 km); airplanes performed the bulk of longer trips and automobiles shorter ones. For most medium-haul trips curbside bus fares were 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.[30] 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.

Effective June 25, 2014, Greyhound reintroduced many much longer bus routes, including New YorkLos Angeles, Los AngelesVancouver, and others, while increasing frequencies on existing long-distance and ultra-long-distance buses routes. This turned back the tide of shortening bus routes and puts Greyhound back in the position of competing with long-distance road trips, airlines, and trains. Long-distance buses were to have Wi-Fi, power outlets, and extra legroom, sometimes extra recline, and were to be cleaned, refueled, and driver-changed at major stations along the way, coinciding with Greyhound's eradication of overbooking. It also represented Greyhound's traditional bus expansion over the expansion of curbside bus lines.[34]

Safety on U.S. intercity buses

On August 4, 1952, Greyhound Lines had its deadliest crash 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.[35][36]

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.[37][38]

Security on U.S. 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 (who later survived his injuries and was hospitalized) and tried to take control of the bus, resulting in a crash that killed 7 passengers, including Igric, and injuring six other passengers. 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.[39] Following this attack, driver shields were installed on most Greyhound buses that now prevent passengers from directly having contact with 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.[40]

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.[30]



Intercity coach at Liuliqiao, connecting Beijing with Youyu.

In relatively developed regions of China where the motorway network is extensive, intercity coach is a common mean of transport between cities. In some cities, for example Shenzhen, nearly every town / district has a coach station.

Coach services can be further categorised into high speed (via motorway, Chinese: 高速客运) and low speed (via national highways, Chinese: 低速客运) services, with the latter stopping along the route to carry rural passengers.

The number of people opting for long-distance bus travel is on the decline since 2014. Partly this is due to the development of high-speed rail, with train tickets having a similar price to bus tickets, and train services often being much faster, buses are not competitive anymore. Other reasons are the increase in private car ownership and the popularity of ride-hailing.[41]

Long distance buses remain popular on routes where train tickets are quickly sold out and where the train station is located far from passenger destinations.[41]

Since 2019, new bus routes longer than 800 km (500 mi) are restricted by law.[42][43]

Hong Kong

There are numerous inter-city coach services between Hong Kong and various cities of Guangdong Province, e.g. Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Zhongshan and Zhuhai. These kinds of coaches are legally classified as a kind of non-franchised public bus, as "International Passenger Service".[44]

In addition, there are some coach services which just carry passengers between the city of Hong Kong and the border crossing at Shenzhen, without entering the city centre in Shenzhen or further. These services are termed 'short-haul cross-boundary coach service' by the Transport Department which nearly the whole journey is within the limits of Hong Kong, as opposed to 'long-haul cross-boundary coach service' which runs between cities.


An Indonesian intercity bus, Rosalia Indah Scania K360IB bus travelling across Java, connecting Surabaya, Solo and Jakarta.

As an archipelagic nation, travel between Indonesian cities are done mostly through air and sea travel. Intercity railways are available primarily in Java and Sumatra, while it is not available or underdeveloped in other parts of the country. Thus the intercity bus service has become the major provider of land transportation service connecting Indonesian cities, either within an island or inter-island connected through ferry crossings.

The intercity bus operator companies in Indonesian with several major companies operating mainly in Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Sumatra. The longest intercity bus service in Indonesia is a route operated by Antar Lintas Sumatera (ALS) connecting Medan in North Sumatra and Jember in East Java. It is a week long bus travel covering a distance of 2,920 kilometers.[45]

The surge in intercity bus travel in Indonesia took place after the completion of Trans-Java highway section connecting Jakarta and Surabaya in 2018. During this time, some intercity bus services began operating fleet of double decker busses.[46]

Besides regular domestic public transport, there is a bus company that serves the International route such as from Pontianak, Indonesia to Kuching, Malaysia and Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam in Borneo operated by state-owned bus company, DAMRI[47] and some private operators. Another international bus service in Timor connects Kupang, Indonesia and Dili, Timor Leste.[48]


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. However, in recent years Israel railways has expanded and upgraded its route network and other companies have taken over routes previously served by Egged.


Intercity bus transportation has risen dramatically in Pakistan due to the decline of Pakistan Railways[49] and the unaffordable prices of airplanes for the average Pakistani. Numerous companies have started operating within the country such as Daewoo Express and Niazi Express, Manthar Bus Service and have gained considerable popularity due to their reliability, security and good service.[50] Smaller vans are used for transportation in the mountainous north where narrow and dangerous roads make it impossible for the movement of larger buses.


Most of the time, coaches in Taiwan is driving on Controlled-access highway, so it is mainly called Highway Coach (Chinese name:國道客運). e.g. KBus (國光客運), UBus (統聯客運), HoHsin (和欣客運).


Turkey has an extensive network of intercity buses. Every part of the country is served. The buses are popular, comfortable and frequent. For example, there are over 150 departures from Istanbul to Ankara each day. The level of onboard service is very high, with free drinks and snacks on long-distance routes. Notable operators including Pamukkale, Kâmil Koç, Metro, and Ulusoy. Tickets can be bought online from all of them or via and


In the EU, inter-city bus service is regulated by Regulation (EC) No 1073/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009. As part of the regulation:

According to the EU statistical pocketbook the European bus and coach fleet amount to 822,900 vehicles in 2013.


BEX intercity double-decker coach connecting Dresden and Berlin.

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

One exception was traffic from and to (West-)Berlin. 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.

Until 2012 new long-distance bus lines could only be added in accordance with "Passenger Transportation Act" (PBefG), meaning if they did not compete with existing rail or bus lines. Since Germany - in contrast with many other European countries - has a well-developed rail network to all major cities and metropolitan areas, the domestic marketing of long-distance buses in Germany was much less significant than in many other countries.

The existing lines were often international lines as exist in almost all European countries, and for the transportation within Germany, there was a ban.[51]

In 2012, the PBefG was amended, essentially allowing intercity bus services. Thus, since 1 January 2013 Coach services have been allowed if they are longer than 50 kilometers, which led to a fast-growing market with companies like Meinfernbus, Deinbus, Flixbus, ADAC Postbus, Berlin Linien Bus GmbH and City2City.[52] Starting shortly after the establishment of the market a consolidation process occurred, which reduced the number of competing companies. ADAC Postbus became Postbus upon the ADAC leaving the cooperation. Meinfernbus and Flixbus fused to create a common company (currently the biggest operator of long-distance buses in Germany) while City2City folded operations. Ultimately market consolidation led to Flixbus operating over 90% of route kilometers offered by long distance buses in Germany. However, shortly after achieving this nigh-monopoly, it was challenged by "BlaBlaBus" a subsidiary of BlaBlaCar entering the German market.


Since Greece's rail network was underdeveloped, intercity bus travel became important in the post-war years. The main bus operator in Greece is KTEL. It was founded in 1952.


Generally slower than rail travel with refreshment and toilet stops required on longer routes. The main operators in the country are the Bus Éireann and private operators, such as JJ Kavanagh and Sons. The bus service between Dublin and Belfast is provided by Bus Éireann and Ulsterbus providing frequent service, including direct connections to Dublin Airport. Some bus services run overnight.


Latvia has an extensive network of intercity coaches connecting different cities despite there are no motorways in the whole country. They are generally slower and more expensive than train travel, but offering a more frequent service[53] These intercity coaches have stops at villages en route, providing public transport for rural residents.


In the relatively small Netherlands there is a limited number of long-distance routes within the country. In 1994, the Interliner-network started with express buses on connections devoid of rail transport. Owing to high fares, a dense rail network and other reasons, the Interliner network fell apart into several different systems. In 2014, only a limited number of express buses existed as regular public transport usually under the name Qliner.

Besides of regular public transport, a number of international bus companies serves Netherlands.

Company From To
Flixbus Amsterdam Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, Austria, Czech Republic, Romania
Ouibus Amsterdam Belgium, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain
IC-Bus (DB, Arriva) Amsterdam Germany


Norway has long-distance bus routes within the country. They operate in barely inhabited areas, including mountains, and affect[clarification needed] the construction of a comprehensive railway network. Except in the Oslo area, Norway has only a rather sparse rail network, which extends north of the Arctic Circle to Fauske and Bodø, and to the north of Narvik with a connection to the Swedish rail network. Many of the routes are based on random railways.[clarification needed] In addition to this network, they provide public passenger transport by many more companies[clarification needed] within Norway than airlines, shipping lines (including the Hurtigruten) and bus lines, including many long-distance bus lines.

The buses used in the north of the country (especially in the county of Finnmark) have both a passenger compartment and a freight compartment in the rear: many remote villages are connected to the outside world only by these buses, thus achieving a large part of the cargo[clarification needed] by bus to the city.


See also: PostBus Switzerland

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

Main article: Coach transport in the 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.[54] 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. Ulsterbus connect places in Northern Ireland which are no longer on the railway network.

Former Yugoslavia

Intercity bus travel in Serbia, as well as in other 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 number of passengers carried by intercity trains on the same competing routes.[55] It has been a trend around Serbia and the Balkan region that small towns and some villages have their own flagship bus carrier, often branded with the last name of the family whose owner runs that bus company. Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, and Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, have very large central bus terminals that operate 24 hours a day. The largest intercity bus operator in the whole region is Lasta Beograd which operates from Serbia to many countries in Europe.

See also


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  51. ^ "Jahrzehnte auf der Standspur: - WELT". DIE WELT.
  52. ^ Personenbeförderungsgesetz: § 42a Personenfernverkehr
  53. ^ For example, between Riga and Daugavpils, there are 7 coach departures throughout the day with ticket price at approximately €9, with journey taking approximately 4 hours, and 3 train departures with ticket at approximately €7.25, with journey taking approximately 3 hours. [1].
  54. ^ Statistics Travel Division (2008-04-01). "Public Transport: UK National Statistics Publication Hub". Archived from the original on 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  55. ^ [2] (Serbian): AUTOBUS POPULARNIJI OD VOZA. Retrieved January 25, 2013