What UK bus and coach operators need to do to provide services, tours, holidays and trips into Europe and other countries.
You can run 3 main types of international bus or coach services:
- a regular service - this follows a timetable and picks up and drops passengers at fixed points on a specified route
- a special regular service - this is a regular service that only carries specified types of passengers (for example, taking workers between home and work)
- an occasional service - this covers all types of journeys not counted as a regular or special regular service (for example, one-off tourist trips)
How you apply and the fees you need to pay depend on:
- which type of service you want to run
- which countries you want to operate in
Apply for an operator licence
To transport passengers internationally by road, you need either a:
- standard international operator licence for Great Britain
- standard international operator licence for Northern Ireland
Register your vehicle trailers
You must register these types of trailers before you drive to or through most EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway:
- commercial trailers weighing over 750kg
- non-commercial trailers weighing over 3,500kg
Get approval to run a regular service or a special regular service
A regular service follows a timetable and picks up and drops passengers at fixed points on a specified route.
It can take up to 6 months to get a regular service authorised.
Special regular services
A special regular service is a regular service which only carries specified types of passengers. For example, it might take workers between home and work. It’s not allowed to transport any other types of passengers.
It can take up to 6 months to get a special regular service authorised.
Where you can run regular services and special regular services
You can only run a regular service or special regular service from the UK to EU countries. You’re not allowed to travel through the EU to non-EU countries.
You cannot transport passengers between 2 stops within the EU, except on services operating between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Apply to run your regular service or special regular service
To apply, download and fill in the application form.
Send the completed form to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) with:
- the application fee of £180 (this is non-refundable if your application is unsuccessful)
- supporting information for your application
You can email your application and supporting information to DVSA if you’re paying by credit card.
Or you can send your application by post.
International Road Haulage Permit Office
386 Harehills Lane
You need to send the following information with your application form:
- the service timetable
- fare scales
- information about the type and volume of the service that you plan to provide
- a map on an appropriate scale that shows the route and the stopping points where passengers are to be picked up and set down
- a driving schedule so that driving and rest periods can be checked for compliance
- a list of partners or sub-contractors (if there are any), with a copy of their operator licence
- any extra information you think is relevant to support your application
If you’re applying as a consortium
If you want to act as a consortium with other operators to provide a pooled service, nominate one to apply on behalf of all the partners. They should be based in the country where the route begins or ends.
What happens next
DVSA will ask each country on the service’s route to approve the application. Each country has 4 months to decide.
The countries will tell DVSA if they’ve approved your application. If they do not give DVSA a decision within 4 months, they’re counted as having approved your application.
DVSA will make a final decision on your application within 6 months of the date you sent it.
If your application is approved, DVSA will ask you to pay the ‘grant charge’ - this is a fee for each year you want the service to run.
Pay the grant charge and pay for certified copies of your authorisation for each vehicle.
DVSA will send your authorisation and certified copies.
Pay the grant charge
The grant charge validates your authorisation for each year you want the service to run.
You can choose to validate the service for between 1 and 5 years. After 5 years, you need to renew your service and pay the application fees again.
You get one free copy of your service authorisation. You need to pay for each extra certified copy of your service authorisation you need. These must be carried in your vehicles.
|Grant charge per year
|Each certified copy of the service authorisation
Example You apply to run a regular service between London and Paris. You want the service to run for 5 years.
You pay the grant charge for 5 years (£38 multiplied by 5 = £190).
You need 10 copies of the service authorisation for your vehicles (£13 multiplied by 10 = £130).
You pay DVSA a total of £320 (£190 plus £130).
Getting your authorisation documents
DVSA will send you the service authorisation and certified copies when you’ve paid the grant charge and for the copies.
The service authorisation includes:
- the authorisation pages, which give details of the service - it has a unique number on it
- the timetable
- the fare table
- the drivers’ hours schedule
- a map of the route
- a list of subcontractors involved in running the service (if applicable)
Documents your driver needs to carry about the service
Your driver needs to carry copies of:
- the regular service’s authorisation
- the contract (or equivalent document) between you and the company providing any additional vehicles, if applicable
For special regular services, the driver also needs to carry copies of the contract between you and the service’s organiser.
What your passengers need
Your passengers need to have either an individual or collective valid travel ticket throughout the journey. This needs to show:
- the departure and destination points, and where appropriate, the return journey
- the period of validity of the ticket
- the price of the transport
The tickets might need to be shown to authorised inspecting officers during the journey.
Make changes to your regular service or special regular service
How you make changes to your service depends on how big the change is.
Make small changes to departure times
Email DVSA if you want to change departure times for your service.
It’s free of charge to make these changes.
Add, change or remove a partner from the service
Email DVSA if you want to change add, change or remove a partner from the service.
You’ll need to pay for updated copies of the service authorisation. DVSA will tell you how to do this when you request the change.
Make a complete change to the services
You need to send a new application if you want to make a complete change to the service, for example, changing the start or end destination. You’ll have to pay all the application fees again.
You then need to send your old service’s authorisation documents back to DVSA.
International Road Haulage Permit Office
386 Harehills Lane
Renew your regular service or special regular service
You should apply to renew your regular service or special regular service at least 6 months before your current authorisation expires.
To renew your service, follow the same process as you do to apply to start a new service.
Get documents to run occasional services
An occasional service is a service that is not classed as a regular service or a special regular service. It includes things like one-off tourist trips.
Where you can run occasional services
You can run occasional services in:
- 36 countries who are part of an international agreement called the Interbus Agreement - it covers all EU countries and 9 non-EU countries
- 8 other countries the UK has separate agreements with
The Interbus Agreement covers all EU countries, Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Moldova, North Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine and the UK.
You’re not allowed to transport passengers between 2 points within the EU, except in Ireland.
Non-Interbus countries the UK has agreements with
The UK has agreements with Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Norway, Russia, Serbia and Switzerland.
You need to get extra permits if you pick up passengers in either Belarus or Russia.
Get documents to run your occasional service
You do not need to apply to run an occasional service, but you must buy a document to give the service’s details.
You need to buy either:
- an ‘Interbus Journey Form’ for services in EU and other Interbus countries
- a ‘Transit Journey Form’ for services on the island of Ireland, and services to non-Interbus countries the UK has agreements with
If you travel through EU countries to reach non-Interbus countries the UK has agreements with, you only need a Transit Journey Form.
You need to carry the document in the vehicle during the international journey.
You can buy the documents from the Confederation of Passenger Transport. You need a credit or debit card when you call.
It usually takes about one week to get the documents after you’ve ordered them.
How much the documents cost
|Interbus Journey Form
|Book of 25 forms
|Transit Journey Form
|Book of 25 forms
The price includes postage and VAT.
If your occasional service picks up passengers in Belarus or Russia
You need an extra permit to pick up passengers in Belarus or Russia. Email DVSA to apply.
You need to include:
- the name and address of the operator
- your public service vehicle operator licence number
- the make of bus
- the vehicle number plate (registration number)
- the destination
- the number of passengers
- the departure date
- the arrival date
The permits are free of charge.
Get the right vehicle documents
Your driver will need to carry the right vehicle documents with them during international journeys. These include:
- vehicle registration documents
- vehicle and trailer insurance documents
- UK stickers (previously GB stickers)
- vehicle operator licences and permits
Your drivers do not need an insurance green card to drive in the EU (including Ireland), Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Liechtenstein, Norway, Serbia or Switzerland. You must still have suitable insurance.
Make sure your driver is eligible to drive abroad
Your driver will need to carry the right documents about themselves with them during international journeys. These include:
- a valid UK driving licence
- a valid Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) card
- a valid passport
- an international driving permit (IDP) if they need one for the countries they’re travelling in
- healthcare documents
Check local road rules
Contact the British Embassy in the country for advice on whether restrictions will apply to your route.
What to do if your vehicle is involved in a road accident
Your drivers should contact their insurance provider if they’re involved in a road accident in an EU country.
Any legal proceedings against either the responsible driver or the insurance provider of the vehicle need to be brought in the EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway, depending on where the accident happened. You might have to make your claim in the local language.
You may not get compensation in some countries if the accident is caused by an uninsured driver or if the driver cannot be traced.
Get legal advice if you need more information about this.