| image |
A National Express coach in the new livery
|Service type||Express Coach|
|Destinations||Birmingham, London, Manchester, Glasgow, Gatwick, Southampton,|
|Operator||National Express Group|
|Chief executive||Randall E West|
- This article is about the company responsible for most long distance bus and coach services in the UK and the brand it uses; for information on its parent company, see National Express Group.
National Express is the brand under which the majority of long distance bus and coach services in the United Kingdom are marketed, and also the company that manages this network and operates some of the services. Most services are subcontracted to local bus and coach companies throughout the UK, as specified below.
The National Express brand was created in 1972 by the state-owned National Bus Company (NBC) to bring together the express bus and coach services operated by companies within the NBC group. The National Express network was largely a branding and management exercise, with services continuing to be operated by the individual companies.
With the privatisation of the NBC in the 1980s, National Express was subject to a management buy-out in 1988. In 1992, National Express Group plc was floated on the London Stock Exchange with a remit to acquire new businesses in the passenger transport market, with National Express as a subsidiary company.
During 2001, National Express took a very unpopular decision to end the historic on-board steward/ess service, leaving many passengers on buses for up to six hours without food or drink. Phil White, their then MD had stated he felt they made the company look old fashioned and passengers did not need them. The ensuing campaign by the hundreds of sacked staff, and thousands of complaints from customers did not produce any result.
For most of its existence National Express Coach Division had little, if any, competition in the long distance coach market. However, in 2003 Stagecoach Group introduced a "no-frills" service, Megabus, whose GBP £1 fares sparked a price war with National Express in autumn 2004 which is still raging on many services in and out of London today. The competition has recently intensified when in 2007 Megabus transferred its London terminus from the Greenline Coach Station into National Express UK mega-terminus Victoria Coach Station.
Passenger numbers on core routes have also suffered severely due to cut-price rail fares, such as Virgin Trains' value tickets and the Megatrain (Stagecoach & Virgin) web fares.
- On 3 January 2007, a National Express coach crashed near Heathrow Airport. The double-decker 77 seat vehicle overturned. Two passengers died shortly after and a third six months later. Several passengers were left with amputated limbs, either traumatically in the accident itself, or later surgically in hospital. The 67 passengers and the two drivers were all taken to hospital with injuries. The coach was operated by subcontractor Trathens Travel Services, an arm of Park’s of Hamilton. Early indications show the late-running coach failed to negotiate a slip road between the M4 and M25.  It is regarded as the worst crash in National Express' history. The coach driver, Philip Rooney, 47, of Carluke, Lanarkshire, Scotland, was arrested, released on police bail and later charged with causing death by dangerous driving. Several of the passengers said the bus appeared to be going at 80mph when the accident occurred. However, by law, the vehicle was equipped with a device that restricts the bus' speed to 62mph. All 12 of National Express' double deckers, which all belong to Trathens, were withdrawn for safety checks after the accident. They are now back in service from the 21 May 2007.
- On September 3, 2007, a National Express coach on service 777 overturned on the southbound M1 as it turned into Newport Pagnell service areas. There were 30+ injuries, six of them serious, including the driver who had to be cut free.  Police arrested the coach driver on suspicion of drunk driving and dangerous driving.
As part of a group wide restructuring and rebranding exercise, the National Express coach fleet is set to receive a slightly different livery, retaining the red white and blue theme, but with "National Express" changing to "national express," with coaches appearing in the new livery from December 2007.
Most domestic National Express services fall into this category, with the exception of:
Frequent services from London operate as National Express Shuttle services. Most of these services operate at least once an hour and operate over direct routes - some other services deviate to serve smaller destinations. The London - Birmingham and London - Bristol services are marketed as NXL (National Express London) services and operate with Irizar PB / Scania K124 coaches. Unusually, the London - Birmingham service is operated directly by National Express and is not franchised out. Also the 040 Bristol - London Shuttle defies National Express's norm by continuing to Burnham on Sea (a small westcountry seaside resort) once a day in each direction, usually early morning to London and late evening from, but still retains its NXL shuttle branding.
Shuttle services: From / To London
- 010 - Cambridge
- 025 - Gatwick Airport and Brighton (Accessible Coach Service)
- 032 - Southampton
- 035 - Bournemouth
- 040 - Bristol (Burnham on Sea and W-S-M, 1 Journey per day) (NXL Shuttle)
- 420 - Birmingham and Wolverhampton (NXL Shuttle)
Non-London Shuttle services
- 060 - Leeds - Manchester - Liverpool (evening services operate via Bradford)
- 070 - Sheffield - Leeds - This service was introduced to replace the Yorkshire Traction, Yorkshire Rider and SYT joint operated X32 service Sheffield to Leeds (Known locally as the White Rose Express).
National Express Airport services operate to a variety of destinations from London Gatwick, Heathrow, East Midlands, Luton and Stansted. The Airport brand was created in 2003 when the National Express image brand was updated - it merged the former Airlink, Flightlink and Jetlink brands, which were confusing, especially to passengers travelling between Heathrow and Gatwick airport. Most coaches on these services operate with the National Express Airport brand, the airport being in white inside a red box below the 'National Express' name on the side of the coach. The exception to this is the 210 service between Wolverhampton and Gatwick Airport, operated by National Express Group company Travel West Midlands, for which new vehicles purchased in early 2006 carry the standard National Express livery. It is not unusual to see 'Airport' coaches on other services.
Selection of Airport services:
- 200 Gatwick Airport - Heathrow Airport - Reading - Bristol
- 201 Gatwick Airport - Heathrow Airport - Bristol - Newport - Cardiff - Swansea
- 202 Heathrow Airport - Bristol - Newport - Cardiff - Swansea
- 205 Gatwick Airport - Heathrow Airport - Ringwood - Bournemouth - Poole
- 210 Gatwick Airport - Heathrow Airport - Banbury - Birmingham - Wolverhampton
- 230 Gatwick Airport - Heathrow Airport - Milton Keynes - Leicester - Nottingham
- 240 Bradford - Leeds - Sheffield - Chesterfield - Nottingham East Midlands Airport - Coventry - Warwick Parkway - Heathrow Airport - Gatwick Airport (Accessible Coach Service)
- 707 Gatwick Airport - Heathrow Airport - Hemel Hempstead - Luton Airport - Luton Bus Station - Milton Keynes - Northampton
- 777 Stansted Airport - Luton Airport - Birmingham
Accessible coach routesEdit
National Express is introducing a new generation of coaches onto the UK network that feature a wheelchair lift incorporated into the passenger entrance.
The easy access coach features a wider entrance and a completely flat floor throughout the coach to aid mobility for all. A streamlined NX Magic Floor Lift is incorporated into the passenger entrance and when deployed, the wheelchair is locked in place and the customer safely and securely uses the same standard three-point seat belt as other customers. Other features include reclining leather seats, air conditioning and a large toilet.
A programme of routes is currently being planned to roll-out the accessible coach across the network, with the whole network being fully accessible by 2012. The routes currently operating with the wheelchair accessible coaches are:
Tha majority of National Express services are contracted to local bus and coach companies. As part of the contract, operators who run services every day are required to use coaches in full National Express livery although there are a few exceptions for operators who operate irregular services (for example extras laid on at weekends). There are also some occasions where an operator will use a private-hire vehicle due to lack of availability.
In addition to this, coaches from outside companies can be hired in at anytime to work "Duplicate Coaches" which can run alongside a route for all or some of it-an extremely common practice during busy periods.
Recently some of the operators who are not contracted to provide National Express liveried coaches have begun to break away from this by using vehicles in plain white with a National Express logo on the side and a few have also acquired coaches that are no longer in regular service on the network.
One such operator - Stagecoach, have created something of a quandary on many routes by being both a National Express franchisee and also operating Megabus services, the direct competitor to National coach services. Passengers watch with interest to see if this strange arrangement will have an impact on services and fares in time to come, or indeed competition laws.
A current illustrated list of Coaches and their operators is available:
- Ace Travel, Chapelhall
- Ambassador Travel, Great Yarmouth
- Applegates International, (Berkley, Gloucester)
- Arriva Midlands
- Atlantis Coach Travel, Reading
- Bebb Travel, Llantwit Fardre
- Bennett's Travel, Stafford
- Berwyn Coaches, Trefor
- Bharat Coach Travel, Birmingham
- Bournemouth Transport, Bournemouth
- Bruce's Coaches, Salsburgh
- Burton's Coaches, Haverhill
- Buzzlines Coaches, Lympne,
- Castle Coaches, Waterlooville
- Chalfont Coaches Southall
- Chenery, Dickleburgh
- Chesterfield Transport, Chesterfield
- Classic Buses, Annfield Plain
- Clynnog & Trefor, Trefor
- Coach Miles (Cheddington)
- Country Travel, Saxmundham
- Dreamline Travel, Blackburn
- Dunn-Line Travel/Veolia Transport PLC
- East Midlands Motor Services, Chesterfield
- East Yorkshire Motor Services, Hull
- E.Stott and Son (Huddersfield)
- Excelsior Coaches, Bournemouth
- First Coaches (Various)
- First Cymru, South Wales
- First Devon and Cornwall,
- First Somerset & Avon, Bath
- Flights-Hallmark Ltd, Birmingham
- Foursquare (Barnsley-Yorkshire)
- Freebird Coaches, Bury, Lancashire
- Galloway European Coachlines, Mendlesham
- Go North East, Chester-Le-Street
- Go West Midlands, Tividale
- Goodes Coaches, (Wendsbury-West Midlands)
- Go Wilts and Dorset, Salisbury
- Haytons Executive Travel, Burnage
- Hills Coaches, Wolverhampton
- John Pike Travel, Andover, Hampshire
- K C Transport, Carluke
- Lee's Coaches, Langley Moor
- L.J. Edwards, Hailsham
- Martin's Coaches, London
- Moore's Coaches, Middlewich
- Park's, Hamilton, Hamilton
- Peter Godward, (South Woodham Ferrers)
- P & M Coaches, Wickford
- Rapson's Coaches, Inverness
- Rowell's Coaches, Low Prudhoe
- Selwyns Travel, Runcorn
- Silverdale Tours, Nottingham
- Skyline Travel, Oldbury
- South Gloucestershire Bus and Coach, Patchway
- Stagecoach Cambridgeshire, Peterborough
- Stagecoach South East, Dover
- Stagecoach East Midlands, Mansfield
- Stagecoach South Midlands, Oxford
- Stagecoach Yorkshire, Barnsley
- Stanley Gath, Dewsbury
- Stuarts Coaches, Carluke
- (South Gloucestershire Bus and Coach Company)(Patchway)(Bristol)
- Swans Travel, Chadderton, near Oldham
- Tellings Golden Miller, Fratton
- Thomas Travel (Veolia Cymru), Barry
- Travelstar European, Walsall
- Turners Tours, Chulmleigh, Devon
- Transdev Yellow Buses, Bournemouth
- Trathens Travel Services, Plymouth
- National Express West Midlands, Birmingham
- Travellers Choice, Carnforth
- Truronian, Truro
- Ulsterbus, Belfast
- Woottens Luxury Travel, Chesham, Buckinghamshire
- Yeomans Canyon Travel, Hereford
For bus enthusiasts, transport manual publisher Transport Diversions Emporium publish a weekly fanzine/annual, entitled the National Express Handbook, which details the latest official franchisees, along with detailed, up-to-date fleet information, and associated commercial developments in the scheduled coach operating field. This yearly publication is available in most bookstores, plus the internet.
Discount Fare BrandsEdit
National Express offers a range of coachcards to customers which allows discounts on National Express tickets. At one point this consisted of a Student, Young Persons and Advantage 50 coachcards which allowed the holder up to 30% of the price of coach tickets. This has since been rationalised with the company only offering an NX2 card, offering the same discount to Students and Young Persons cards. Since the introduction in 2004 of half price fares for the over 60's the Advantage 50 card was scrapped, although cards are still valid until expiry. A Family coachcard is also offered and is cheaper than the NX2 card and allows the holder of the card to take one child free with them, in many cases the cost of the Family Coachcard is cheaper than the fare for a child.
- Brit Xplorer
This is a card valid for a set period of time which allows non-UK residents (a passport of another country is needed to purchase this) travel as a standby passenger on all National Express services, the holder does however for a small fee have the option to reserve a seat.
Launched as a result of severe competition from easyBus and Megabus, funfares are cheap single fares, some as low as £1, purchased only on the internet as an 'e-ticket', similar to low-fare airlines, thus reducing overheads. Further restrictions are put on these tickets such as the inability to change the time on the ticket or to travel on a different coach. Funfares were launched on Shuttle services but have since been rolled out across the network. A percentage of seats on off-peak services can be booked in this way.
For frequent travellers, packs of ten separate journeys can be bought for a saving of ten percent on regular fares. Tickets are valid for up to six months.
- Aberdeen (Guild Street Bus Station)
- Birmingham (Oxford Street Coach Station)
- Bradford Interchange
- Bristol (Bristol Bus and Coach Station)
- Cambridge (Drummer Street)
- Cardiff (Cardiff Central Bus Station)
- Carlisle (Carlisle Bus Station)
- Coventry (Pool Meadow Bus Station)
- Doncaster (Frenchgate Interchange)
- Dundee (Seagate Bus Station)
- Exeter (Paris Street Bus & Coach Station)
- Glasgow (Buchanan bus station)
- Inverness (Farraline Park)
- Leeds (Bus and Coach Station, Dyer Street)
- Leicester (St. Margaret's Bus Station)
- Liverpool (Norton Street Coach Station)
- London Canary Wharf
- London Gatwick Airport
- London Golders Green
- London Heathrow Airport
- London Stansted Airport
- London Victoria Coach Station
- London Luton Airport
- Manchester (Chorlton Street Central Coach Station)
- Milton Keynes (Coachway)
- Newcastle upon Tyne (Newcastle Coach Station)
- Newport (Newport Bus Station)
- Nottingham (Broad Marsh Bus Station)
- Oxford (Gloucester Green Bus Station)
- Plymouth (Bretonside Bus Station)
- Poole, Dorset (Dolphin Centre Bus Station)
- Preston (Preston Bus Station)
- Sheffield (Interchange)
- Southampton (Harbour Parade Coach Station)
- Stoke-on-Trent (Hanley Bus Station)
- Sunderland (Park Lane Interchange)
- Swansea (Swansea bus station)
- Wembley Stadium
The longest service is the 336 from Penzance to Edinburgh run by FirstGroup. The entire journey takes an estimated 18 hours and 30 minutes. It stops at 41 destinations en route and is a journey mostly undertaken at night.
Other long journeys include the 539 service from Bournemouth to Edinburgh run by Bruces(Salsburgh), which takes an estimated 13 hours and 20 minutes.
Most destinations have easy access to London with nearly every town and city having a direct service to the heart of the English capital. Cross country services often link with north / south services at Milton Keynes Coachway on the M1 at Junction 14, a location with park and ride facilities and 24 hour cafe.
To partly alleviate the continued frustration of customers who are still without hostess / refreshment services on board, overnight services using the M1 often stop at motorway service stations en route.
- Scottish Citylink Scottish Express Coach services
- Coach services in the United Kingdom
- ALSA Spanish Operator part owned by National Express
- 2007 National Express coach crash
- The main National Express homepage
- History of the National Express Group
- National Express Gallery & Fleet lists (Unofficial site)