Last week saw the launch of iDBUS, a new coach service from London to Paris. But with a journey time of nine hours, and prices starting at £90 return, why would you ever use this service?
The news of SNCF’s new service, which also serves Lille, comes just three months after budget coach operator Megabus launched services to Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Boulogne.
Clearly there is increased demand for coach travel to the continent in these straitened times. With Paris prices as low as £2.50 return on Megabus and £18 return on Eurolines, it’s understandable that people are prepared to endure the nine-hour slog in return for extra cash in their pocket on arrival.
But the lowest return price that iDBUS offers is a whopping 36 times more expensive than Megabus’s cheapest fare, and five times more than the comfortable Eurolines service.
All aboard the nine hour coach
The new service is even pricier than the Eurostar’s cheapest fare at £69. Not only is this comfortable and affordable, it has the advantage of taking just over two hours to Paris.
Eurostar passengers leaving London at the same time as the iDBUS could feasibly have enjoyed the views from the Eiffel tower, taken a boat trip on the Seine, and browsed the markets around Montmartre before the coach finally chugged into town nine hours later. And all at a lower price.
I’ve got nothing against coach travel at all. In my student days, I would happily spend hours, sometimes days, trundling along on a bus to extend my meagre funds. And before the arrival of the no-frills airlines, budget travellers had few alternatives to the coach. But these days there are alternatives, and coach prices surely need to be more competitive?
Is a coach trip fun for all the family?
iDBUS told us that it is targeting its services at students and families, but savvy students will soon spot the cheaper options, and the thought of trying to entertain children for an entire day’s bus journey makes the blood run cold.
One possible advantage of the new service is its fixed-price structure. To get the best prices on the Eurostar, Megabus or Eurolines you need to book in advance, whereas iDBUS should offer the same prices whether your departure date is the next day or in three months’ time.
But I had a quick look at next day prices, and although the cheapest Eurostar was £164, it was possible to get a return Megabus for £50.50, and Eurolines service for £75 – still cheaper than the minimum £90 iDBUS fare.
So I’m a bit baffled. Am I missing something? Would you choose the coach over flying, ferry or train, even at this price? Or if not, how much cheaper would the coach service have to be for you to consider eating into your precious holiday time?