Australian entrepreneur takes Eurobus across the border

A little-noticed feature of the Maastricht Treaty was the deregulation of coach travel in Europe which ended the requirement on bus companies to return cross-border travellers to the country of embarkation. For the first time it is legal for travellers to hop on and off buses in the same way as they have for years with Inter-rail tickets, writes Tom Stevenson.

It has taken an Australian backpacker to spot the loophole and create a business, Eurobus, in its wake. Max Thomas (pictured above), who has been in the travel business in the UK for 12 years, is now coming to Ofex, the unregulated market run by jobber JP Jenkins, to raise pounds 750,000 to replace his rented fleet of nine 49-seater buses with eight fully owned 78-seater double-deckers.

The buses will continue to serve Eurobus's two routes, one taking in 23 European cities and the other an 11-city UK tour. Passengers can jump on to the bus at any one of the stop-off points as many times as they like during the validity of the ticket, anything from one to three months. On board telephones and faxes, and guides on each coach, mean accommodation can be booked in transit for independent travellers who don't want to commit themselves to an itinerary in advance. A computerised tracking system enables passengers to be located on any route and for messages to be relayed. Within Europe there is a daily service supplied three times a week by services from London to Paris and Amsterdam.

A one-month Eurobus ticket costs pounds 180 compared to pounds 249 for a comparable Inter-Rail ticket.The offer for subscription of up to 3.75m shares at 20p, reduces the stake of Mr Thomas and a group of five individuals who initially backed the venture to 75 per cent.

Eurobus, which has been trading for a year, sold 7,900 passes in the nine months to December 1995.

Photograph: Edward Webb

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