“We are treated like animals. Access is poor, the toilets are disgusting, the air is unbreathable ”: In this week of departure (or return) on vacation, Emma, a mother accustomed to bus travel, does not mince words about the status of Parisians to describe. Bercy bus station.
He is also not the only one who castigates this barren train station in the twelfth arrondissement of the capital, through which 12,000 passengers pass every day in summer, for connections of the operators Blablacar and Flixbus to European cities at bargain prices. And this filthy terminus is not an isolated case.
An easy roadside stop
According to experts, France lags behind in the development of its bus stations compared to some European neighbors such as Spain, Great Britain or Sweden, which more often have toilets, an information point or a real WAITING ROOM.
Of the 324 reception facilities referred to by the Transport Regulatory Authority (ART), 126 are considered bus terminals, but for the most part the services are inadequate or even non-existent, sometimes being limited to a simple bus stop on the side of a road.
A lack of quality that Blablacar laments
The infrastructure has not improved since the opening of the bus transport market to competition by the then Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron. “In 2015 the service on board is already better than on the station. Nothing has changed,” says Arnaud Aymé, consultant at Sia Partners.
A lack of reception, regretted by the operators themselves as a brake on their activity, while most developments are managed without mandates from different actors, from municipalities to private managers.
“The infrastructure offered by bus terminals in France still does not match the quality of service expected by travelers and European standards,” Blablacar regrets, adding that “travel and parking fees are sometimes high in relation to the quality of reception”.
Flixbus emphasizes the advantage of being away from the inner cities
For the time being, more and more bus stations have been relocated several kilometers from the inner cities and a quarter of the urban areas still have no real facilities.
And it’s true that carriers sometimes prefer stops on the outskirts of major cities. “By moving the bus station away from the hypercentre, we can avoid the risk of congestion and make our travel times more reliable,” explains Charles Billiard, spokesman for Flixbus France.
Grenoble, an exception
Luckily, some rare cities are satisfactory, like Grenoble, where the department of Isère renovated the bus station in 2017, offering travelers a closed shelter very close to the train station. For its part, Flixbus is working with Bordeaux City Hall to reorganize its facilities. In any case, the passenger demand is there: This summer, Blablacar and Flixbus will exceed their 2019 passenger numbers.