“We are treated like animals. Arrivals are bad, toilets are disgusting, and the air is unbreathable”: In this week of leaving (or returning) on vacation, Emma, a mother accustomed to bus trips, did not smile at the words to describe the state of Paris-Bercy bus station.
Moreover, she is not the only one to criticize this strict station in the 12th arrondissement of the capital, through which 12,000 commuters pass daily in the summer, for connections that operators Blablacar and Flixbus provide at discounted rates, to major European cities. And this dirty ending is not an isolated case.
Simple roadside stop
La France blame un lord retard dans le développement de ses gares routières selon des experts, par rapport à certains voisins européens comme l’Espagne, la Grande-Bretagne ou la Suède qui ont plus souvent des toilettes, un point d’uneformation waiting hall.
Of the 324 receiving facilities indicated by the Transportation Regulatory Authority (ART), 126 are considered bus stations, but for the most part, services are inadequate, or even non-existent, sometimes limited to a simple bus stop on the edge of a road.
Lack of quality rejected by Blablacar
Infrastructure has not improved since competition in the bus transport market was opened by Emmanuel Macron, then Minister of Economy. “In 2015, the service on board is already better than it was at the station. Nothing has changed,” according to Arnaud Aimee, consultant at Sia Partners.
A failed welcome has been lamented by the operators themselves as an obstacle to their activity, while most developments without specification are managed by various actors, from communities to private sector managers.
“The infrastructure provided by bus stations in France is still not up to the level of service quality that travelers expect and European standards,” deplores Blablacar, adding that “traffic and parking costs are sometimes high in relation to the quality of the welcome provided.”
Flixbus highlights the advantage of being away from city centers
Currently, more and more bus stops have been moved several kilometers from city centers and a quarter of urban areas are still without real facilities.
And it is true that sometimes transport companies prefer to stop on the outskirts of large cities. “Moving the bus station away from the supercentre allows us to avoid the risks of traffic jams and have better reliability in our journey times,” said Charles Belliard, spokesperson for Flixbus France.
Grenoble, an exception
Fortunately, a few rare cities are satisfying, like Grenoble, where the Isère department renovated the bus station in 2017, providing travelers with an enclosed waiting hall, in the immediate vicinity of the train station. For its part, Flixbus is working with Bordeaux City Council to reorganize its facilities. In any case, there is a demand for passengers: this summer, Blablacar and Flixbus will exceed passenger numbers for 2019.