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.
- 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.