National Express is extending its new commuter coach service to other parts of the UK, following a successful pilot scheme in Milton Keynes and Canary Wharf. Designed to get commuters travelling into London out of cars and onto coaches, this new business development has been led by customer research to understand what it takes for an individual to leave their car at home.
The Milton Keynes to Canary Wharf service, which began on 30 July 2007, was the company's first venture into coach travel specifically designed for commuters. National Express has since acquired the Kings Ferry Travel Group, an award winning UK coach hire operator providing commuter coach travel services in London and the South of England.
The next location to benefit from a new service will be on the M4 corridor serving Swindon and Reading.
Paul Bunting, Strategic Planning and Marketing Director at National Express said: "The trial in Milton Keynes presented us with a great opportunity to talk to our customers about what would make them choose the coach over their car. We have learnt a lot, and are putting those experiences into practice for this new venture."
The service features different specifications to that of an average coach journey. A text message is sent to each customer 10 minutes before the coach arrives to give the customer confidence to coach is en route. When the coach arrives at the destination, which is outside of the city next to a park and ride, the commuter is given their favourite newspaper as well as a complimentary bottle of water. Every person is guaranteed a leather reclining seat for the entire journey, and the new coach features at seat tables. The commuter can either relax for the journey, or use the coach as a mobile office as the coach is fitted with free Wi-Fi access.
The initiative comes as National Express continues to prove to the Highways Agency they are encouraging people out of cars onto coaches in order to give greater priority to coaches through the extension of priority lanes such as the M4 bus lane and allowing coaches into high-occupancy vehicle lanes
Paul Bunting continued, "We are continuing to lobby the government agencies to give coaches access to priority lanes and high occupancy vehicle lanes to make our journey times more and more appealing. However many of the people we speak to are hesitant of using the coach because they used it as a student, or think it is for older people going on holidays. We are committed to changing people perceptions of coach travel through a variety of ways including new product development such as this, as well as informing people coach is the most environmentally friendly form of public transport as well as the best value."
Figures produced by National Express and the Edinburgh Centre of Carbon Management show coaches produce 29 grams of CO2 for every passenger kilometre, compared with 52g for trains and 171g for cars. The company has developed on online carbon calculator for people to see how much carbon they are saving compared to car and train, and giving people real life equivalents in terms of the amount of energy required to boil a kettle or power a house.
In order to woo commuters for this next journey National Express needs to maintain good value and an excellent service compared to the journey time, which may be longer than the train. The coach is expected to take 2hrs30minutes from Swindon and 1hr30minutes from Reading. The drop off points for the next commuter service, which will be launched between Swindon and Reading in late April 2008 have been specially selected in London to be near tube stations and key office locations. The coach will first drop off at Hammersmith for tube connections, then Trafalgar Square to serve the businesses based in the Strand, Whitehall and Victoria Street for government offices and the final destination at London Victoria coach station. Although the exact details have not yet been determined it is thought the price of the coach compared to the train could be up to 85% cheaper. There will be two morning services and three evening services.
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About National Express:
As the UK's No 1 coach operator, National Express and its sister company, Eurolines provide passengers with the flexibility to visit more than 1,000 UK and 500 European destinations. National Express also operates high frequency services to all major airports within the UK.
National Express is the official transport provider for Wembley Stadium and the FA, and provides dedicated coach services for visitors to the stadium from across the UK. National Express operates 15 coach routes to Wembley Stadium from 53 major towns and cities across the UK.