Starting this week, London travellers will have yet another option in getting to and from the Greater Toronto Area.
The Germany-based FlixBus has announced that it will extend its intercity bus service in Ontario to London as of Thursday, with connections to Hamilton and Toronto.
The company rolled out intercity service in the province in April, adding to a growing roster of routes in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
FlixBus joins several other companies that have rolled out bus service to the city after Greyhound Canada announced last year that it would end intercity service across the country.
(FlixBus parent FlixMobility acquired U.S.-based Greyhound Lines Inc. in October 2021. FlixMobility says the two will continue to operate independently. Greyhound Lines Inc. provides cross-border service out of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.)
The new service also comes at a time of record high gas prices and spiralling inflation, which has impacted people’s travel plans as they look to reduce spending and lessen the hit to their wallets.
“Obviously we didn’t plan for gas prices, although … I’m not going to lie, it’s good news if you run an intercity bus travel platform… It’s also good news for the environment with people (driving) less,” said Pierre Gourdain, managing director of FlixBus North America.
“We did accelerate our expansion in Canada because of the high gas prices to be able to offer the fixed service to more people when they’re needed the most.”
According to FlixBus, buses will leave Toronto at 11:15 a.m., stopping in Hamilton at 12:05 p.m. and arriving in downtown London by 1:40 p.m. The bus will then continue and make a stop at Western University.
Going the opposite way, buses leaving London will depart daily at 2:30 p.m. at Western University, stopping in downtown London at 2:40 p.m., Hamilton at 4:15 p.m. and arriving in Toronto by 5:10 p.m.
Ticket costs will vary by day and demand, but the cheapest will run around $20, according to the FlixBus website. FlixBus is contracting Skyway Coach Lines to operate the London to Toronto line.
Travellers can also use Toronto as a connection point to other locations, including Guelph, Kitchener, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, Ottawa and St. Catharines. New York-bound routes are also available from Toronto, including to Buffalo, Syracuse and New York City.
“The vision of Flix is that if we price it the right way, much more people will come. We’d rather have a packed bus and people taking trips that they would have otherwise not taken than something that is just a service for the happy few,” Gourdain said.
“Our partners who operate the routes are very efficient, and we have a good idea of the cost and we think that we can make the numbers work. Of course, if you book at the last minute on a Friday or on a Sunday, prices would be a bit higher.”
Gourdain noted that as demand increases and as more people find out about the service, “we also expect to rise the prices a little bit.”
FlixBus is the latest bus operator to set up shop in the city to fill the gap left by Greyhound, among them Megabus, Rider Express and Onex Bus. Of the three, Megabus and Onex continue to offer service from London, while Rider Express suspended service in November 2021.
The province’s GO train also saw service extended to London last year, with stops in St. Marys and Stratford. As part of the pilot, one train leaves London in the morning and one arrives in the early evening. Service, however, is slow due to track conditions between London and Kitchener.
“We are really here for the long term. Get ready to see a lot more of those lime green buses on the London roads,” Gourdain said.
“We hope there will be further expansion and we hope to add more volume, of course, more density of trips or just more trips. We hope, soon, we will have a London to Ottawa; we know that one is really asked for.
“We hope to have better connections between London, Toronto and then New York. And of course, one thing we’ve been looking at is London to the U.S. as well with a Detroit and Chicago route.”
More information can be found on the FlixBus website.