Uplift in demand shows confidence for coach travel as more routes open

Latest figures from National Express – the UK’s largest coach operator – show strong signs of the public’s increased confidence in domestic travel as the country moves toward the next step in the roadmap.

A new full UK-wide timetable will go on sale later this month, and has been redesigned to offer quicker journey times, increased punctuality and improved connectivity for journeys in 2021. However, the new timetable still has fewer routes/destinations than the pre-Covid version at this stage.

Key points:

  • 70% of seats sold in first week of operation since an 11 week suspension – increasing to 80% over the Easter weekend
  • Online searches increase by 24% following Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday
  • New routes and increased frequency of services in place from mid-April

National Express restarted operations with a limited timetable on a handful of routes and reduced passenger numbers per vehicle on Monday 29 March following an 11 week suspension. Around 70% of seats were sold on services for its first week back, increasing to 80% over the Easter weekend. 

Routes re-starting mid-April:

  • Plymouth – London
  • Doncaster – Sheffield – London
  • Halifax – London
  • Birmingham – Blackpool
  • Birmingham – Bristol – Plymouth
  • Birmingham- Nottingham – Leeds

Increased frequency starting mid-April:

  • Nottingham – London
  • Manchester – London
  • Leeds- London
  • Manchester – Birmingham

John Boughton, commercial director of National Express UK Coach, comments: “Our first week back on the road has been encouraging. We will be adding new routes, including to Yorkshire, Nottingham and Blackpool, and increasing the frequency of some services from mid-April to meet the growing demand we are seeing in line with the next easing of restrictions.

“There have been significant jumps in people planning a coach journey in 2021 every time we reach a date in the roadmap or there is an announcement. We saw online searches increase by 24% yesterday (Sunday 5 April) following the official confirmation from Number 10 that we will move to step two of the roadmap on Monday 12 April.”

Big cities including Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham are consistently popular with demand for leisure destinations growing noticeably from mid-May onwards. 

“The uncertainty around foreign travel means more and more people are planning a break in the UK this year and using coach travel for their journey. 

“Our new option to book accommodation and attractions along with coach travel, complete with a price guarantee and ABTA protection, is proving popular. And we are seeing particularly strong interest in services to major UK holiday destinations such as Bournemouth, Brighton, Blackpool, Skegness and Devon.” 

“We are going to make coach travel more convenient and even greater value in 2021.” 

“We’ve removed the booking fee for any purchases made through a National Express online account and included more options to claim a refund or amend a journey if circumstances change*. We have also automatically extended over 100,000 previously purchased coachcards by 12 months.

There has also been significant investment in making the iconic white coaches the greenest fleet on the road on its return. The average age of a vehicle is only three years old and every one meets the highest possible engine emission standard (Euro VI).

John Boughton continues: “National Express has always been part of being able to see friends and family, go on holiday, attend events and visit attractions. We’re excited to play our part in the UK public’s safe return to travel and help make this happen again.”

Significant covid-secure measures are in place for travel with National Express, including:

  • A reduction in the number of seats available on all coaches and social distancing in both stations and on vehicles. 
  • Enhanced cleaning in both stations and on coaches, including regular aerosol based disinfection –  sometimes called ‘fogging’.
  • An additional filter on the air conditioning systems of all coaches to reduce bacteria and corona type viruses; and improve air quality.
  • Temperature screening before allowing travel with anyone with a high temperature reading not allowed to travel and given a full refund.
  • Provision of PPE and use of protective screens on vehicles and in coach stations 
  • The requirement for customers to wear face coverings when in stations and travelling on coaches, in line with Government guidelines.

An initial limited timetable, equivalent to around 15% of the National Express standard intercity network, restarted on Monday 29 March 2021, following a full suspension from Sunday 10 January 2021.

You will receive our regular news digest – typically weekly. We are serious about GDPR and we promise to take care of your data and will never sell it or pass it on.

Your Privacy

We and our partners use technologies, such as cookies, and process personal data, such as IP addresses and cookie identifiers, to personalise ads and content based on your interests, measure the performance of ads and content, and derive insights about the audiences who saw ads and content. Click below to consent to the use of this technology and the processing of your personal data for these purposes. View our privacy policy.