Latest figures from the UK’s largest coach operator show the British public are seizing the opportunity to travel now allowed with the easing of restrictions at step two of the roadmap.
Bookings for travel in the week from Monday 12 April when non-essential retail, outdoor attractions and self-contained accommodation reopened have increased by 37% compared to the previous week. Figures for the weekend when many have the first real opportunity to make a journey somewhere have more than doubled.
John Boughton, commercial director of National Express UK Coach, comments: “We suspended services for 11 weeks and have been back on the road with a limited timetable and reduced passenger numbers per vehicle for nearly three weeks now.
“There is clearly a real appetite to get out and about which we are seeing build week on week. Coach stations are reporting a noticeable increase in footfall and more customers buying tickets for on-the-day travel compared to last week. We started back with 8% of our full intercity network operating which will increase to 13% from this weekend as we have already added new routes, including to Yorkshire, Nottingham and Blackpool, and increased the frequency of some services to meet demand.”
Big cities including Bristol, Birmingham, Leicester, Manchester & Leeds are proving most popular this weekend. Demand for leisure destinations such as Bournemouth, Brighton, Blackpool, Skegness and Devon is growing noticeably from mid-May onwards when hotels, hostels, B&Bs, indoor hospitality and entertainment venues can reopen. 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.
“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.