Night service (public transport)

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A night bus operated by Kowloon Motor Bus in Hong Kong

Night service, also known as owl service, is the public transport services operated during the night hours. These services are operated, mainly using buses but in certain cases using trams (or streetcars), not including intercity bus service, inter-city rail or flight that run through midnight, either in addition to or in substitution for ordinary daytime services or rapid transit rail services which may shut for maintenance or due to lack of passenger volumes at night in many cities worldwide.

Night-based services may be differently branded compared to daytime services. Examples include London and Chicago, where overnight buses are prefixed with an "N" for "night". Another common way of distinguishing night services from their daytime counterparts are dark-colored line numbers. Some cities apply a different fare structure for night services from their daytime services.


A tram operating a night route in Prague

24-hour, continuous rapid transit operation is practiced in some cities, most notably the subway in New York City, which essentially renders night services unneeded. Many of New York City's buses also have 24-hour operation; and around the world, night services may be provided by virtue of 24-hour services on daytime routes, as does Berlin on its "Metrotram" routes.

Where they exist, night service is generally much more limited in geographic coverage than daytime services, with fewer lines and routes over entirely different paths to daytime services; routes serving more stops than during the daytime; or the night terminus may be in a different place. Networks may run longer routes than daytime services, sometimes combining two or more daytime routes, which may use interchanges to reach the same outlying districts. Night services usually also run less frequently. For example, according to the New York City Transit Authority's Service Guidelines Manual, New York City buses are required to operate at least every 30 minutes all times except late nights. Local bus frequencies during late night times (defined as 1 a.m. – 5 a.m.) are required to operate at least every 60 minutes.[1]

Because of much longer intervals between services than during the day, night routes often offer guaranteed transfers to other lines or transit modes (such as regional and intercity rail). To ease planning, many cities use a central hub where all lines converge at a specific time. This makes the line map of many night services look like a wheel with radial lines to the center and some additional lines connecting the outer ends (or running along a ring road outside of the city center).[example needed]





Overnight bus route 夜27 of Beijing Bus, running from Tongzhou to Dabeiyao
  • Beijing: 夜1-38[d] Night The prefix 夜 (yè), meaning "night", denotes buses serving the urban core and some of the larger suburbs that run from 23:20 to 4:50. Their number scheme is distinct from other buses, such that Bus 夜26 follows a different route from Beijing Bus 26. 夜10, 夜20, 夜30 are loop lines.
  • Hong Kong: Night buses (Chinese: 通宵巴士, literally "overnight bus") are often, but not always prefixed with the letter N and operated by all franchised bus companies (Kowloon Motor Bus, Long Win Bus, Citybus, New World First Bus and New Lantau Bus).
  • Macau: TCM (Transport Company Macau) operates night service public buses across Macau, Taipa, and Coloane in seven routes. Such totes have prefix 'N'(N1A, N1B, N2-N6).
  • Shanghai:Line numbers between 300 and 399 are night buses (Chinese: 夜宵公交线路).



  • SBS Transit operates night service buses on 6 routes with suffix 'N (1N-6N) from Marina Centre Bus Terminal.
  • SMRT Buses operates night services on 8 routes with prefix 'NR' (NR1-NR8).




  • Munich:The S8 of the Munich S-Bahn is 24/7 (only to airport direction).

Round the clock - every day. From every pub, disco, theatre and cinema, the MVG Nightlines will take you home safely all night long - to nearly every destination in Munich.

    • Mid-week: On nights before working days the four night tram lines N16, N19, N20 and N27 as well as the night busses N40 - N45 are in service. Every hour between 1:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. all night tram lines and the night busses N40 and N41 meet for 5 minutes at the interchange station Karlsplatz (Stachus) where passengers can change to any other night line.
    • On weekends: On the nights before Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays these same services run every half hour! That means they then meet every 30 minutes at the interchange station Karlsplatz (Stachus). Additionally, every half hour the night busses N72 - N79 operate - every hour the night busses N80 and N81. Shortly after 2 a.m. late night suburban trains still run to almost all stations in the area.
  • Frankfurt: the S8/S9 line of the Rhine-Main S-Bahn system has a 24/7 service through the Citytunnel with a 30 minutes frequency between 1:00 am and 4:30 am from Frankfurt Flughafen Regionalbahnhof to Konstablerwache (1:11 am/4:11 am from Konstablerwache to Frankfurt Flughafen Regionalbahnhof) and a 60 minutes frequency between 00.49AM and 3:49 am from Wiesbaden Hbf and Hanau Hbf (1:46 am/3:46 am from Hanau Hbf to Wiesbaden Hbf).
  • Cologne: the S19 of the Rhine-Ruhr S-Bahn (German: S-Bahn Rhein-Ruhr) system has a 24/7 service between Duren and Hennef for 17 stations including Cologne Hbf and Cologne/Bonn Airport.
  • Hanover: the S5 of the Hanover S-Bahn (in German: S-Bahn Hannover) system has a 24/7 service from Hannover Hauptbahnhof (central station) to Hannover Flughafen.

Great Britain[edit]

London Buses has 56 routes in service 24/7 and other 61 routes with a night service.




  • Melbourne: Night Network is Melbourne's weekend overnight public transport system. It comprises all of Melbourne's regular electric railway lines, six tram lines, 21 night bus services, and four regional coach services. The night bus services replaced the previous NightRider services, with 10 operating radial from the CBD and the remaining 11 operating from suburban railway stations.
  • Sydney: NightRide, also Nightride, is a network of bus routes in operation between midnight and 4:30 am in Sydney, Australia. The sixteen routes are run by bus operators as listed below and allow for a nightly shutdown of the Sydney Trains commuter rail network. The operators of such services are Hillsbus, Punchbowl Bus Company, Transdev and State Transit Authority. Transport for NSW also advertises various other routes as late night or Night Owl services, the latter in Newcastle.[2]

The section between Central and The Star of the Inner West Light Rail (branded as the L1 Dulwich Hill Line) is open 24 hours a day, with an overnight frequency of 30 minutes.

North America[edit]


  • Edmonton: Edmonton Transit Service offers late-night OWL service on five bus routes until 3:00 AM, seven days per week.[3]
  • Montreal : The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) operates 23 night lines on most major north-south and east-west arteries.[4] These routes all have a number between 350 and 382. The highest frequency route is the 361 St-Denis which runs every few minutes on weekends. The other routes run at least once an hour, every night.
  • Toronto: The Blue Night Network is the overnight public transit service operated by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The network consists of a basic grid of 27 bus and 4 streetcar routes, distributed so that almost all of the city is within 2 km of at least one route. It is the largest and most frequent night network in North America.

United States[edit]

South America[edit]


  • Rio de Janeiro: Rio Onibus, Rio de Janeiro. The public Bus is a good way to move around the city while it’s not the rush hour or late at night. Buses are identified by a number that refers to the bus route and a destination on its front sign. Also a “BRS” number that indicates which bus points the bus stops at. Due to the enormous number of buses running in Rio, the bus points are classified by a BRS number (from 1 to 6) and different buses stop at different bus points with the same BRS number.


  • Buenos Aires: Colectivo Bus has over 100 routes in service 24/7 with a night frequency of at least 30 minutes.

In popular culture[edit]

  • London night buses were the inspiration for the Knight Bus found in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter book and film series (which is a pun on night bus).
  • The Chicago Surface Lines owl service was mentioned in a number of poems by Carl Sandburg:
    • "Old Woman" (1916): "The owl-car clatters along, dogged by the echo..."
    • "Blue Island Intersection" (1922): "The owl car blutters along in a sleep-walk."
    • "Nights Nothings Again" (1922): "A taxi whizzes by, an owl car clutters, passengers yawn reading street signs..."
  • In act II, scene 2 of the Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Mitch tells Blanche how he'll get home: "I'll walk over to Bourbon and catch an owl-car."
  • The 1997 Swedish film Nattbuss 807 depicts an incident in a night bus.[5]
  • A 2007 Italian noir-comedy film directed by Davide Marengo was entitled Night Bus.
  • The Randy Travis song "Three Wooden Crosses" depicts a night bus travel.[6]


  1. ^ MTA New York City Transit Service Guidelines Manual August 2010
  2. ^ Late Night Services Transport for NSW
  3. ^ "Maps, Routes, Schedules and Service | City of Edmonton". Retrieved 23 July 2021.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Nattbuss 807". Svensk filmdatabas. 1997. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  6. ^ Joyce Mancinelli (20 December 2017). "Religion in Modern Music by Ian McDonald". Saint Oswald's Anglican Church. Retrieved 2 November 2018.

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