National Express says the easing of covid restrictions has prompted extra demand for coach travel.
Latest figures from the UK’s largest coach operator, which operates many services to and from Swindon, suggest the public are seizing the opportunity to travel.
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 percent compared to the previous week.
Bookings for the weekend, when many have the first real opportunity to make a journey, have more than doubled.
John Boughton, commercial director of National Express UK Coach, said: “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 percent of our full intercity network operating, which will increase to 13 percent 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 and Leeds are proving the 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.
Mr Boughton added: “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."
“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