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.[5]

In November 1941, the Western Australian Government Railways introduced its first rail replacement service, operating a service from Perth to Kojonup via Boddington.[6] By 1949, there were 28 buses,[7] and by 1959, more than fifty.[8]

On the Queensland Rail network, to relieve congestion on the single track Sunshine Coast line, the rail service is supplemented by a bus service operated by Kangaroo Bus Lines on weekdays between Caboolture and Nambour as route 649.[9] NSW TrainLink, Transwa and V/Line all introduced extensive networks in New South Wales, Western Australia and Victoria in the 1970s and 1980s that replaced regional trains.


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.[10]


Bus have been used to replace rail in Japan when rail service have to be suspended due to disaster, accident, economics, or engineering works. Notably, in some cases where those rail lines are closed permanently, some of the former rail right-of-way are converted into bus right-of-way to provide grade-separated Bus Rapid Transit service.[11]

New Zealand

When train services operated by Transdev in Auckland train services are sometimes replaced by a bus, the resulting service is called Rail Bus.[12] Historically, New Zealand Railways Road Services replaced many train routes with buses.[citation needed]

United Kingdom

During the British Railways Board's railway rationalisation in the 1960s, known as the Beeching cuts, 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.[13]

Rail replacement bus services have been used to operate Parliamentary train services.

  • When North London Railways services between Watford Junction and Croxley Green were withdrawn in March 1996, to avoid the legal complications and costs of actual closure, train services were replaced by buses. The service was withdrawn when the branch was formally closed in September 2003.[14]

United States

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.[25][26]

Temporary substitution of buses for trains may be done with Amtrak's Thruway Motorcoach service.[27]

Urban transit

Rail-replacement bus services are common among urban rail transit systems, mainly due to unexpected service disruptions. For example, one of the effects of Hurricane Sandy in New York was that the New York City Subway required replacement bus service for several subway lines. As the subway runs 24/7/365, replacement bus service is also provided when subway lines were closed for regularly scheduled maintenance, 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". [28] 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.[29][30] 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..[31]

See also


  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. ^ Royal Commission into the Management, Workings & Control of the Western Australian Government Railways Government of Western Australia December 1947 page 92
  7. ^ WAGR buses shift 360,000 in a year The Sunday Times 28 August 1949 page 3
  8. ^ Annual Report for year ended 30 June 2003 Western Australian Government Railways Commission
  9. ^ Route 649 TransLink
  10. ^ http://buseireann.ie/timetables/1425905570-370.pdf
  11. ^ JR気仙沼線の線路跡、バス専用道一部完成 Nikkei
  12. ^ 'How to use a railbus' on Auckland Transport website, viewed 2013-07-07
  13. ^ Henshaw, David (1994). The Great Railway Conspiracy. ISBN 0-948135-48-4. 
  14. ^ Rail Chronology: Croxley Green LNWR Branch Passenger Closure Rail Chronology
  15. ^ Stations close to trains BBC News 16 May 2003
  16. ^ Fewer Buses for Barlaston Stone & Eccleshall Gazette 13 November 2013
  17. ^ New Timetable Means New Services for Stoke Network Rail 14 December 2008
  18. ^ "Stone station is re-opened" The Railway Magazine issue 1294 February 2009 page 64
  19. ^ Summary to the responses to consultation to proposed closure of Norton Bridge Station Department for Transport 2017
  20. ^ Closure Ratification Notice - Norton Bridge Station Office of Rail & Road 26 October 2017
  21. ^ Government runs ghost bus to avoid admitting it scrapped rail service The Daily Telegraph 7 January 2009
  22. ^ Withdrawal of Scheduled Passenger Services Between Wandsworth Road, Kensington (Olympia) & Ealing Broadway Office of Rail Regulation 10 May 2012
  23. ^ Ghost bus' makes final journey ITV News 11 June 2013
  24. ^ "Last Olympia - Wandsworth Road" Today's Railways UK issue 140 August 2013 page 19
  25. ^ An example from Milwaukee, Wisconsin may be seen in a picture caption at: "Motor Coaches of The Brew City". Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  26. ^ "Newark PCC 27 Arrives at the Museum". Shoreline Trolley Museum. October 14, 2001. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  27. ^ "Thruway Motorcoach Service and Accessibility". Amtrak. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  28. ^ "Toronto subway shutdown causes early-morning commuter chaos". CBC News. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. June 8, 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2016. 
  29. ^ "SMRT to be fined a record S$5.4m for July 7 MRT breakdown". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 2017-06-18. 
  30. ^ "Free bus services during extended MRT disruption Ministry of Transport, Singapore". www.mot.gov.sg. Retrieved 2017-06-18. 
  31. ^ "Free bus services during extended MRT disruption Ministry of Transport, Singapore". www.mot.gov.sg. Retrieved 2017-06-18. 

External links