Roadjet takes on Flixbus

The start-up Roadjet is entering the long-distance bus market with a luxury offer. It wants to convince Bahn and Flixbus customers with massage chairs and fast WiFi.

Massage chairs with heated seats: Roadjet tries to differentiate itself from Flixbus with additional luxury.

Flixbus has displaced many competing providers from the German long-distance bus market. The start-up Roadjet GmbH from Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart is trying to get involved in the long-distance travel market in Germany. The founders Muhammed Simsek, 35 years old, and Mujib Bazhwal, 36 years old, on the other hand, do not rely on the highly competitive low-price segment, but rather on premium. “There are many who do not feel comfortable with the previous offer, for whom a little more legroom is not enough,” says Simsek. The idea has been bothering him for years. He is a trained vehicle builder, comes from an entrepreneurial family and has traveled a lot himself in the past. He senses a niche because the classic long-distance bus still has a bad image for many. “There are many who don’t feel comfortable there.”

The company, which is financed by the two founders and a start-up fund from the state of Baden-Württemberg, is going a special way. It had its own bus developed by Scania based on a chassis. Instead of 96 seats, there is space for 44 passengers who spend the journey on massage chairs with heated seats. In any case, the question of the distance is clarified in Corona times. There is also high-speed internet as well as a laundry and changing room. Such a bus costs significantly more than 500,000 euros to purchase.

Flixbus has a market share of more than 95 percent

Roadjet plans to start operations on the Stuttgart – Berlin route from August 3rd. Four more routes are to be added by the end of the year, for example from Stuttgart to Hamburg and Munich. They definitely want to operate the first five routes, with their own buses and their own drivers. In the longer term, franchise routes with other bus operators under license are also conceivable. First, however, the company has to gain experience, says Simsek. The two founders do not provide any information about the amount of their investment. The Baden-Württemberg Minister of Economic Affairs, Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut (CDU), is different. So far, the state has supported around 100 start-ups with the help of its fund, with an average of 200,000 euros per company.

Christoph Gipp from the market research institute IGES in Berlin says: “The new provider has a big task, it has to make its brand known very quickly.” The German long-distance bus market was liberalized in 2013 to create more competitive pressure, especially at Deutsche Bahn. Numerous companies were already in the starting blocks with their own offers.

But gradually Flixbus dominated the market and displaced most of them. According to IGES, Flixbus now has a market share of more than 95 percent. The provider is the alternative for people who have a lot of time and want to travel cheaply. Flixbus has neither its own drivers nor buses, but cooperates with private bus companies.

At the beginning, the bus will run between Stuttgart and Berlin.
At the beginning, the bus will run between Stuttgart and Berlin. : Image: Roadjet / Yannik Michael

“The long-distance bus market is slowly recovering after the Corona break,” says Gipp. “All providers have returned to the market in Germany.” Since the end of May, Flixbus has been on German roads again after the forced break and now serves around 250 German destinations – this corresponds to about half of the route network before Corona, according to a spokesman. There are also some European destinations.

“It will be exciting to see how the concept is accepted”

Based on the demand, they plan to include additional destinations. In Germany, according to Gipp, an average of around 20 million passengers a year use a long-distance bus. “There is great competition in the market. The railway has grown significantly in recent years. It advertised with many special offers and is also benefiting from the reduction in VAT on tickets. “

Roadjet’s entry into the market is a first. “Comfort is important. Long-distance buses initially scored points with WiFi on the bus and with bicycles. But the railway has now caught up. ”The segment is attractive. You drive two hours longer on the route from Stuttgart to Berlin. However, a passenger can use the time to work. Roadjet does not want to compete with other bus offers on the basis of price, but aims at the railways as the actual competitor.

Inside the roadjet bus: Because the seats are further apart than usual in coaches, the distance rules should not be a problem.
Inside the roadjet bus: Because the seats are further apart than usual in coaches, the distance rules should not be a problem. : Image: Roadjet / Yannik Michael

For more than a year, the French ridesharing platform Blablacar has been attacking the German top dog Flixbus under the name Blablabus. The managing director of Blablabus, Christian Rahn, says about the new provider in the premium segment: “It will be exciting to see how the concept is being accepted.” However, he believes that long-distance buses in Germany are mainly cheaper and higher Will assert flexibility.

Blablabus belongs to the French company Comuto, which was initially active in Germany with a ride-sharing platform. The provider is now back on the road in Germany and France. With Blablabus there are currently 400 destinations across Europe on national and international connections, says Rahn. Fewer German cities would now be served than before the offer was suspended as a result of the Corona crisis. “However, the network optimization was already planned before Corona,” says the manager.