At 09:30 on Monday, April 16, two Megabus-branded coaches departed London’s Victoria Coach station, one bound for Paris and the other heading to Amsterdam, via Brussels. They were the first Stagecoach services in mainland Europe for over a decade.

Perth-based Stagecoach previously owned large subsidiaries in Sweden and Portugal but withdrew from both markets in 1999 and 2001 respectively. Stagecoach gave up on Europe and its highly regulated passenger transport markets and instead focussed on North America, where the group’s Megabus business is currently enjoying jaw-dropping year-on-year growth of 40-50%.

There are rumblings that express coach services in Europe will be soon deregulated, and the prospect of a new opportunity to expand Megabus has sparked the interest of Sir Brian Souter, chief executive of Stagecoach. Souter himself has already returned to Europe with a personal investment in Poland, where he has set up Polskibus, a Megabus-style offering. Now he thinks the time is right for Stagecoach to test the water.

International routes are already deregulated so the group has been able to launch three new cross-border Megabus routes, forming a triangular network – London-Paris, London-Amsterdam and Paris-Amsterdam. Stagecoach says these services will deliver “a long-overdue shake-up to the over-priced European coach travel market”. Eurolines, the established pan-European coach operator, has responded by slashing its fares from London to Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels to £9.

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