Rail replacement bus service

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Stagecoach in Hampshire rail replacement bus in Ryde bus station, UK.

A rail replacement bus service uses buses to replace a passenger train service either on a temporary or permanent basis. The train service that is replaced may be of any type such as light rail, tram, streetcar, commuter rail, regional rail or heavy rail, intercity passenger service. The rail service may be replaced if the line is closed due to rail maintenance, a breakdown of a train, a rail accident, strike action, or if the rail service is not economically viable.

Terms for a rail replacement bus service include bustitution (a portmanteau of the words "bus" and "substitution", may also be bustitute)[1] and bus bridge.[2] Substitution of rail services by buses can be unpopular and subject to criticism, so the term bustitution is often used pejoratively.[3][4]

A similar concept in some ways is motorization, but that term[clarification needed] more broadly refers to the rise of the automobile as well as bus transportation.



In Australia, a permanent or temporary rail-replacement service change is often referred to as bustitution.[further explanation needed][5][6][7]


Via Rail, the operator of the national passenger rail network, uses the term "bustitution" to refer to rail replacement with buses.[1]


As in the United Kingdom buses replaced rail services on closed lines. The most recent example can be found in County Wexford whereupon the suspension of rail services between Rosslare Europort and Waterford in 2010 Bus Éireann route 370 was introduced. However the bus takes considerably longer than the train journey and fails to serve Waterford railway station.[8]

New Zealand[edit]

When train services operated by Transdev in Auckland train services are sometimes replaced by a bus, the resulting service is called Rail Bus.[9] Historically, New Zealand Railways Road Services replaced many train routes with buses.[citation needed]

United Kingdom[edit]

During the British Railways Board's railway rationalisation in the 1960s, known as the Beeching Axe, bus substitution was an official policy for replacing train services on closed lines. This policy was largely unsuccessful, however, as the bus services were usually far slower than the train services they replaced, causing many passengers to give up on public transport altogether.[10]

United States[edit]

Rail-replacement bus services occurred on a large scale following the dismantling of the street railway systems of many cities in North America in the mid-20th century.[11][12]

Temporary substitution of buses for trains may be done with Amtrak's Thruway Motorcoach service.[13]

Urban transit[edit]

Rail-replacement bus services are common among urban rail transit systems, mainly due to unexpected service disruptions. For example, the effects of Hurricane Sandy in New York, the New York City Subway required replacement bus service when subway lines were closed for repairs, which happens also because of regularly scheduled maintenance: the subway runs 24/7/365, so interruptions in subway service require replacement bus service, even during off-peak hours.[citation needed]

Planning rail-replacement services in a high-patronage environment, such as a high-capacity rapid transit network, requires efficient use and management of time and resources in order to prevent major travel disruptions. This was exemplified by a July 2015 shutdown on the Toronto subway during rush hour caused by a communication system breakdown, in which the local transit operator opted not to use replacement buses as "it wasn't possible to replace the entire subway's capacity with buses". [14] A similar incident as Toronto happened in Singapore on 7 July 2015 after a mass shutdown on the North South East West Lines after a power system failure. Operator SMRT and rival SBS Transit did not activate bus bridging but made all buses free islandwide due to the sheer scale of the disruptions.[15][16] The Land Transport Authority made travel free available for any bus services passing MRT stations affected during any train disruptions and in the event a massive disruption affecting at least 2 lines, bus travel islandwide would be free..[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Definition of bustitution". Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 
  2. ^ 'Limited MTA service backj Thursday' on New York Daily News website, viewed 2013-07-09
  3. ^ An example appears in a 2009 editorial. See: Parker, Christopher (January 19, 2009). "Statement on the bustitution of the Ethan Allen Express". Vermont Rail Action Network. Archived from the original on 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2009-06-20. 
  4. ^ Weyrich, Paul M. and William S. Lind (May 1999). "Does Transit Work? A Conservative Reappraisal" (PDF). American Public Transportation Association. Retrieved 2016-09-07. 
  5. ^ "BUSTITUTION OVER XMAS". Media Release – Newsletter. Action for Public Transport (New South Wales). 1993 (1). February 1993. ISSN 0155-8234. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  6. ^ An example from an Australian discussion board appears at: "Railpage Australia Thread review – RANT Velolia bustitution services suck.". Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  7. ^ Another example from Australia appears at: "Southern Highlands bustitution observations". March 2, 2005. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  8. ^ http://buseireann.ie/timetables/1425905570-370.pdf
  9. ^ 'How to use a railbus' on Auckland Transport website, viewed 2013-07-07
  10. ^ Henshaw, David (1994). The Great Railway Conspiracy. ISBN 0-948135-48-4. 
  11. ^ An example from Milwaukee, Wisconsin may be seen in a picture caption at: "Motor Coaches of The Brew City". Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  12. ^ "Newark PCC 27 Arrives at the Museum". Shoreline Trolley Museum. October 14, 2001. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  13. ^ "Thruway Motorcoach Service and Accessibility". Amtrak. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  14. ^ "Toronto subway shutdown causes early-morning commuter chaos". CBC News. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. June 8, 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2016. 
  15. ^ "SMRT to be fined a record S$5.4m for July 7 MRT breakdown". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 2017-06-18. 
  16. ^ "Free bus services during extended MRT disruption | Ministry of Transport, Singapore". www.mot.gov.sg. Retrieved 2017-06-18. 
  17. ^ "Free bus services during extended MRT disruption | Ministry of Transport, Singapore". www.mot.gov.sg. Retrieved 2017-06-18. 

External links[edit]