German coach crash

Optimistic operators expect stable bookings

This week’s fatal coach crash in Germany is unlikely to result in a drop in bookings despite a public debate on safety standards for long-distance coaches, industry representatives believe. Nearly 10 million Germans go on coach holidays every year.

July 06, 2017
Only a shell remained from the burnt-out coach.
Photo: imago/Xinhua

Eighteen pensioners died and 30 more were injured when their coach crashed into a truck and then burnt out in a dramatic accident on the A9 motorway in Bavaria on Monday. The group of 46 senior citizens and two drivers had been travelling from Saxony in eastern Germany to a holiday at Lake Garda in northern Italy. It was one of the worst coach accidents in Germany for many years.

Criticism quickly emerged about the safety standards for such coaches. For example, Siegfried Brockmann, head of the German insurance industry’s accident investigation unit, told German TV: “The biggest problem lies in the interior fittings. They are much more inflammable than what German Railways has to fit.”

Hans-Ulrich Sander, vehicles expert with the TÜV Rheinland technical inspection agency, said that coaches have only had to be fitted with emergency brakes since November 2015 and criticised that these can easily be deactivated. Such emergency braking assistants use cameras and radar sensors to recognise obstacles, alert the driver with warning lights and sounds, and then brake automatically if the driver does not respond. Crashes can thus be either avoided or minimised.

According to the Association of German Coach Operators (BDO), the coach was three years old and passed its latest TÜV inspection in April this year. The coach driver had worked for the company for more than 10 years and was recognised four years ago for many years of accident-free and safe driving.

The accident was also the main talking point at this week’s annual conference of the RDA Group, the German coach travel association, in Cologne. The association emphasised that it wants to await the official investigation before commenting fully on the accident’s causes and possible consequences. But officials were confident that it would not impact on overall demand for coach travel.

RDA executive director Dieter Gauf said in a press conference: “We have already investigated in the past what consequences a coach accident has on demand. And we have concluded: coaches are seen by the public as having high safety standards. We have generated this public trust. There are no consequences for demand.”

In 2016, about 4.3 million Germans went on a coach holiday of at least five days, while a further 5.3 million went on short coach trips of 2-4 days. About 9.5% of short holiday trips to foreign destinations were made by coach, according to RDA figures.

“Coach holiday demand remains stable,” concluded RDA president Benedikt Esser.

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