Estonian-based coach operator Lux Express continues to challenge the market. Taking on cars and planes Lux Express positions itself as the preferred mode of travelling around the Baltic countries and beyond to Poland and Russia. With 2.1 million passengers in 2016 and a fleet of more than 100 high-end Scania Irizar coaches, Lux Express excels in comfort, frequency and on time performance.
When the Baltic countries regained independence in the early 1990s, Lux Express founder Hugo Osula had a vision to build a coach service from the Baltic capitals to major European cities.
However, low-cost air travel was increasingly threatening the business and Lux Express was forced to rethink its model. “We were operating two double-decker busses daily from Riga to London and it became obvious that this wouldn’t last for long,” says Osula. “We started to prepare for the changing market and were forced to define who the bus passengers would be, what kind of buses we would need and how logistics should be organised. And the most importantly: who would carry the company into the next decade.”
“The best that is available”
With this reorientation, Lux Express invested in the flagship Scania Irizar PB. “Our aim has always been to offer the top line, the best that is available from a technological perspective but also from the emotional perspective,” says Hannes Saarpuu, CEO of Lux Express.
Meanwhile, Lux Express started examining onboard infotainment systems. “In this world a lot of things are copied and we started looking at what the others were doing. By others, we saw what airlines were providing on long-distance flights. We were somewhat limited by the technical options at the time and what we had in the beginning is not what our passengers today enjoy, including the wide selection of films.”
Business class service
A few years ago, Lux Express started to feel that the PB was outdated and when the Scania Irizar i8 was launched in 2016, Lux Express was its first customer. With this new coach, the operator started to offer a separate 10-seat business class service with 2+1 seating with fully reclinable leather seats.
Over the years, Lux Express has streamlined its operations. The coaches annually accumulate 250,000–425,000 kilometres and are replaced after five years, having racked up 1.5 to 1.8 million kilometres.
Ten years ago, the average monthly mileage was around 10,000 kilometres. Today, the operator consistently reaches more than 20,000 kilometres. “Obviously, efficiency translates into cost and while other factors are important we cannot overlook that the cost level is very important,” says Saarpuu.
Innovative service provider
Lux Express praises Scania as the most innovative service provider in the market. “Of course we communicated with all the other players in the field but Scania was the most eager to really seek and find the solutions we needed,” says Chairman Osula.
All maintenance and repairs are carried out at Scania’s workshops in the countries they operate – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. ”The maintenance and repair systems have been developed in synergy and in close cooperation with Scania as a complete life-cycle arrangement,” explains Saarpuu. I believe that this is a more modern approach and now other companies in our region are more and more exploring similar arrangements.”
Fleet management benefits
To uphold the impressive near 100-percent regularity and more than 95-percent punctuality, Lux Express benefits from Scania Fleet Management. The coach operator monitors position, driver and vehicle performance but also reliability of schedules. “Since six-seven years, fleet monitoring has become a critical part of our daily operations. We monitor, for example, if buses are on time and can determine where the problematic areas and route segments are.”