International scheduled bus services complement public transport. These services have experienced a substantial boom in recent years as a consequence of the liberalisation of long-distance bus traffic in Germany and France. However, compared to rail it continues to play a subordinate role. International bus services may not carry passengers on stages within Switzerland (ban on cabotage).
The number of licences and approvals for international scheduled bus services from or within Switzerland have more than doubled in six years. This boom has been particularly favoured by the liberalisation of long-distance bus traffic in Germany and France. Long-distance coach lines are often launched where rail provides a weak service or none at all, such as the routes from Zurich to Belgrade or Munich. The volume of passengers using international scheduled bus services continues to represent only a fraction ofthe volume of rail passengers in the Swiss market.
In international scheduled bus services the FOT exercises an important function as licensing authority. It grants authorisation or approval for connections to EU States and licences for connections to third countries. New lines are generally approved. One reason for rejection might be that a new bus connection could seriously impair the functioning of a comparable transport services within the framework of a public service contract. The FOT also takes care of implementation and compliance with transport legislation currently in force. If these regulations are breached, the FOT carries out criminal proceedings. In particular, international bus services may not carry passengers on stages within Switzerland, e.g. between Bern and Zurich (ban on cabotage). This ban is monitored by the cantonal police forces and the border guard service in consultation with the FOT.
In its Report on international passenger transport of 18 October 2017, the Federal Council stated that it wished to continue developing international and national long-distance bus services within the existing legal framework. It sees one potential in bus stations and stops as well as in enforcing the relevant social conditions.