The distinctive coaches of National Express are back on the road.
The company, whose network includes Swindon, ran its first service - from Manchester to London - shortly after midnight following an 11-week suspension due to lockdown.
Chris Hardy, managing director of National Express UK Coach, said: “It’s a great feeling to be getting hundreds of drivers back behind the wheel. We’re excited to play our part in the UK public’s safe return to travel.”
The restart comes with a significant number of changes that promise customers a better overall experience when booking and travelling with National Express in 2021.
An initial limited timetable, equivalent to around 15 percent of the standard intercity network, will be expanded quickly, adding new locations and routes and increasing frequency as restrictions are lifted and customer demand grows.
A new full UK-wide timetable, the company says, will offer quicker journey times, increased punctuality and improved connectivity. For example, the average journey time between Birmingham and Manchester has been reduced by 20 minutes.
With more people predicted to take a domestic break this year, the new schedules will include all major UK holiday destinations.
Mr Harvey said: “We want to make coach travel more convenient and with 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.”
From the onset of the pandemic, a no-quibble amendment or full refund within 28 days was offered to all customers, and over 100,000 coachcards have been extended by 12 months.
Mr Hardy said: “This is just the beginning of a better National Express. We’ve always focused on doing the right thing for customers and by continuing to do so, we will grow back quicker and stronger.”
Covid-secure measures put in place last year will remain, 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.
Mr Hardy said: “This is a challenging but exciting time for us. Like the rest of the population, we look forward to being able to see friends and family, go on holiday, attend events and visit attractions again.
"National Express has always helped make this happen and we look forward to doing it once more.”
Full details of the schedule and anti-covid measures can be found via https://www.nationalexpress.com/