National Express Coaches
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2008)|
A National Express Caetano Levante coach in the new livery. It is run by Go North East.
|Headquarters||Birmingham, England, UK|
|Service area||England, Wales, Scotland|
|Service type||Intercity coach service|
|Operator||National Express Group|
|Website||National Express Coach|
National Express Coaches, more commonly known as National Express, is a brand and company owned by the National Express Group, under which the majority of long distance bus and coach services in Great Britain are operated.
Most services are subcontracted to local bus and coach companies throughout England, Scotland and Wales. The company's head office is based in Birmingham, in offices above the new Birmingham Coach Station.
Following the Transport Act 1968, the National Bus Company (NBC) was formed and many local bus companies were nationalised. Many of these bus companies also operated coach services and these were marketed as National Express from 1972 (the actual coach services continued to be operated by the individual companies).
Coach services were de-regulated under the Transport Act 1980 and buses by the Transport Act 1985. The National Bus Company was privatised and National Express Holdings Ltd was formed in 1998 following a management buy-out; National Express Group (NEG) was formed in 1991 prior to the company being floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1992. It was given a remit to acquire new businesses in the passenger transport market, National Express was as a subsidiary company.
During 2001, National Express took the decision to end the historic on-board steward/ess service. The then-Managing Director, Phil White, stated he felt they made the company look old fashioned and passengers did not need them.
For most of its existence, the National Express Coach division had little, if any, competition in the long distance coach market. A number of operators had attempted to compete with the company after deregulation in 1980, the largest being the British Coachways consortium, but most had given up competition by the end of the decade. However, in 2003, Stagecoach Group introduced a "no-frills" service, Megabus, whose £1 fares sparked a price war with National Express in autumn 2004. The competition intensified in 2007 when Megabus transferred its London terminus from the Green Line Coach Station into the main Victoria Coach Station.
In 2007–2008, as part of the group wide restructuring and re-branding, the group's rail operations were branded as 'National Express' and the coach fleet received a slightly different livery, retaining the red white and blue theme, but with a new lower-case logo; coaches started appearing in the new livery from December 2007.
National Express offer many standard routes to destinations across the country. In addition, shuttle and airport services are also operated, although there is no obvious difference to the passenger between a standard, shuttle or airport service with regard to branding.
Many 'National Express' coach routes pass through several town centres, which increases journey times for longer journeys considerably. A smaller number of Shuttle services operate at least once an hour over faster direct routes.
National Express operate a number of Airport services to a number of different airports, including Gatwick, Heathrow, East Midlands and Luton. The Airport brand was created in 2003 when the National Express image brand was updated – it merged the former Airlink, Flightlink, Jetlink and Speedlink brands, which were confusing, especially to passengers travelling between Heathrow and Gatwick airports. In the 2007 re-brand, the Airport branding was dropped, although the 'Airport' coding is still used on tickets.
Accessible coach routes 
Nearly all National Express services are scheduled to be operated using vehicles with a wheelchair lift incorporated into the passenger entrance. These vehicles feature a wider entrance and a completely flat floor throughout the coach to aid mobility for all. The NX Magic Floor Lift is incorporated into the passenger entrance and when deployed, the wheelchair is locked in place and the customer safely and securely uses the same standard three-point seat belt as other customers.
A very small number of regular coaches on the network do not yet contain wheelchair access - although with pre-booking it is often possible to schedule an appropriate vehicle where necessary. All of these vehicles are anticipated to be withdrawn from normal service by mid-2013. Certain one-day a week journeys and duplicate services are not operated using vehicles featuring the 'Magic Floor Lift'.
Newer vehicles include reclining leather seats, plug sockets, air conditioning and a large toilet.
Franchise operators 
The majority of National Express services are contracted to local bus and coach companies. As part of the contract, operators who run services every day are required to use coaches in full National Express livery, although there are a few exceptions for operators who operate irregular services (for example extras laid on at weekends). There are also some occasions where an operator will use a privately hired vehicle due to lack of availability.
In addition to this, coaches from outside companies can be hired in at anytime to work "Duplicate Coaches" which can run alongside a route for all or some of it – an extremely common practice during busy periods.
Recently some of the operators who are not contracted to provide National Express liveried coaches have begun to break away from this, by using vehicles in plain white with a National Express logo on the side, and a few have also acquired coaches that are no longer in regular service on the network.
One such operator – Stagecoach – is both a National Express franchisee, and operates its own rival Megabus services.
- Ace Travel, Chapelhall
- Ambassador Travel, Great Yarmouth
- Atlantis Coach Travel, Reading
- Bennetts Coaches, Gloucester
- Berwyn Coaches, Trefor
- B L Travel, Pontefract
- Bruce's Coaches, Salsburgh
- Burton's Coaches, Haverhill
- Chalfont Coaches, Southall
- Chenery, Dickleburgh
- Classic Buses, Annfield Plain
- Clynnog & Trefor, Trefor (does not operate vehicles in National Express livery)
- East Midlands Motor Services, Lincoln
- East Yorkshire Motor Services, Hull
- E.Stott and Son, Huddersfield
- Epsom Coaches
- Excelsior Coaches, Bournemouth
- Galloway European Coachlines, Mendlesham
- Go North East, Chester-Le-Street
- Johnson Bros
- Linburg Touring,Sheffield
- Lucketts Travel, Fareham
- Park's, Hamilton
- Mainline Travel
- Peter Godward, South Woodham Ferrers
- Selwyns Travel
- Silverdale Tours, Nottingham
- Skyline Travel, Oldbury
- South Gloucestershire Bus & Coach, Patchway, Bristol
- Stagecoach Cambridgeshire, Peterborough
- Stagecoach South East, Dover
- Stagecoach East Midlands, Mansfield
- Stagecoach South Midlands, Oxford
- Stagecoach Yorkshire, Barnsley
- Stuarts Coaches, Carluke
- Travelstar European, Walsall
- Travel de Courcey, Birmingham
- RATP Yellow Buses, Bournemouth
- Trathens Travel Services, Plymouth
- Travellers Choice, Carnforth
- Ulsterbus, Belfast
- Wilts & Dorset, Salisbury
- Woottens Luxury Travel, Chesham, Buckinghamshire
- Whittle of Kidderminster
- Yeomans Canyon Travel, Hereford
- YourBus, Nottingham
A number of discount fare brands are available at a cost, including:
National Express currently offers a range of four coachcards to customers which allows discounts on National Express tickets. These are:
- 16–26 Coachcard – Available to young people aged under 26 and to full-time students of any age. This discount card allows a third off the standard fare, plus 10% off events services.
- Family Coachcard – Available in a '1+1' or '2+2' format, this enables one child (3–15) to travel for free with one paying adult (or 2 children with 2 adults).
- Senior Coachcard – Following the Governments scrapping of the Concessionary half price fares for the over 60's in October 2011, National Express introduced a Senior Coachcard which enables the holder one third off the standard fare. Initially, these were not valid on services to/from airports, however following complaints from passengers, this restriction was removed in March 2012.
- Disabled Coachcard – Following the Governments scrapping of the Concessionary half price fares for the disabled people in October 2011, National Express introduced a Disabled Coachcard which enables the holder one third off the standard fare. Initially, these were not valid on services to/from airports, however following complaints from passengers, this restriction was removed in March 2012. Passsengers who are students or under 26 can also get 10% off events services.
- Brit Xplorer
This is a card valid for a set period of time (up to 4 weeks) which allows non-UK residents (a passport of another country is needed to purchase this) travel as a standby passenger on all National Express services, the holder can opt to pay a small fee in order to reserve a seat on a specific service.
Launched as a result of severe competition from easyBus and Megabus, funfares are cheap single fares, purchased only on the internet as an 'e-ticket', similar to low-fare airlines, thus reducing overheads. Further restrictions are put on these tickets – such as the inability to change the time on the ticket, or to travel on a different coach. Funfares were launched on Shuttle services but have since been rolled out across the network. A percentage of seats on off-peak services can be booked in this way. For a long while Funfares were priced from a highly competitive £1 a ticket, which undercut Megabus when taking into account booking charges. Subsequently though the price of Funfares increased to a less attractive minimum of £5 a single ticket with an additional booking charge which means that they are often undercut by rival bus and on occasions train operators.
For frequent travellers, packs of ten separate journeys can be bought for a saving of ten percent on regular fares on a limited number of services. Tickets are valid for up to six months and can be used in either direction of travel. These are only sold on a limited number of services.
National Express and its franchises operate a number of the different vehicle types. Below is a list of some of the most common ones:
- Caetano Levante – introduced in 2005 and designed for better disabled access (now most common type)
- Plaxton Panther (both standard length and 15m length)
- Van Hool Alizee
- Jonckheere Mistral
- Caetano Enigma
- Plaxton Elite
On-board services 
In the mid-1980s during the Rapide era, an on-board tea serving service and on-board televisions were in operation. These were given extensive advertising campaigns as profiled on the BBC Three documentary History of the Coach, profiling various uses the public make from such public transport systems.
In April 2001, National Express phased out their on-board catering service, while having already long phased out their on-board television service in the 1990s. However in late 2004, National Express launched NXTV or National Xpress Television. As opposed to showing a whole film like on an aircraft, NXTV would instead show various episodes of British television series such as A Touch of Frost, My Family and Top Gear all of which were commissioned by ITV and the BBC. The service would be displayed on small monitors situated above the overhead luggage compartments, powered by a motor to move downwards and upwards while the programming would be played from a DVD drive situated at the drivers dashboard.
The service was quickly phased out in the summer of 2006, due to a lack of interest in purchasing headphones, which were available at vending machines in the major stations and also via on-board vendors before a journey. The reasons for the service's failure was due to the headphone jack being compatible with any headphone, therefore removing the reason to purchase those offered. Also, by the time NXTV was launched, the Apple iPod was already at its height of popularity, diverting interest away from it. Programming was also very limited, with many of the episodes being frequent repeats from terrestrial television. The headphones were later given away for free when the service was finally about to be ceased. The advertising slogan was "Television shows as you board the coach".
National Express Coaches now offers free WiFi on board selected coaches. This feature is most commonly found on board the newer Caetano Levante fleet.
A television advertising campaign in the 1980s included a jingle with the slogan 'National Express Coaches go our way, we're going yours'.
Since National Express started operating, there have been few crashes involving their coaches. Early incidents were:
26 July 1974: Three killed and over 30 injured when a double decker overturned on the M1 near Luton after swerving to avoid an earlier collision.
17 August 1983: Three killed on the M4 motorway near Swindon when a lorry careered in to the side of a coach.
3 August 1985: One killed and 40 injured when a double decker overturned on the A1(M) in County Durham after swerving to avoid a sheep on the carriageway.
3 January 2007 
Crash and emergency response 
A Neoplan Skyliner N122/3L coach was operating on route 592 and was heading towards Aberdeen. It left Victoria Coach Station at 22:30 (GMT), carrying 65 passengers, and was due to arrive at Aberdeen Coach Park at 10:30 (GMT) on 4 January 2007. The coach was due to stop en route at Heathrow Airport, Carlisle, Hamilton, Glasgow and Dundee.
The crash occurred on the motorway slip road connecting the westbound M4 motorway to the northbound (clockwise) M25 motorway, at approximately the point where the slip road merges with the slip road from the eastbound M4. At this point the slip road is on a downhill gradient with a right turn with decreasing radius, necessitating a posted advisory speed limit of 40 miles per hour (64 km/h).
A total of five fire appliances, twenty London ambulances, eight doctors and one specialist fire service unit attended the accident scene. The injured were treated at six different hospitals. Thirty six passengers were taken to Hillingdon Hospital, sixteen to Charing Cross Hospital, seven to West Middlesex Hospital, four to St Peter's Hospital, one child was taken to St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, and another child to Wexham Park Hospital in Slough.
Two people were killed in the crash: a 30 year old male Chinese national, Yi Di Lin, and a woman named Christina Munro Toner, 76, of Monifieth, Dundee, Scotland. Another passenger, John Carruthers, 78, of Chertsey, Surrey, died on 1 July 2007 from injuries sustained in the crash.
The 40-year old coach driver was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, but was released on police bail. The driver was named by the police as Philip Rooney, of Lanarkshire, Scotland. Following police investigations Rooney was charged with three counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
National Express Coaches had taken its remaining 11 Neoplan Skyliners off the road for safety checks. All were operated on behalf of National Express by Trathens Travel Services of Plymouth, which is a subsidiary of Park's of Hamilton. The coaches were relatively new at the time of the crash, having been delivered in October 2006. The vast majority of the National Express fleet comprises single-deck coaches, and its services were not significantly affected by the recall. It was originally reported that the coaches would be stopped where they were, but they were in fact stopped at their destination.
Neoplan announced on 5 January that all the coaches had passed their safety checks, with no safety problems or defects being found, and were ready to return to service "as and when the operator wishes".
The driver of the coach, Philip Rooney, from Lanarkshire, initially denied all three charges of causing death by dangerous driving at a hearing at Reading Magistrates' Court. Rooney was bailed to appear at Oxford Crown Court on 8 September 2008 for a committal hearing for a trial on 27 October 2008. He subsequently changed his plea to guilty of all three counts of causing death by dangerous driving at a hearing at the Old Bailey. Rooney was again bailed, this time by Mr Justice Gross at the Old Bailey, until sentencing on 24 November. On 26 November 2008 at Oxford Crown Court, Judge Mr Justice Gross jailed Rooney for five years.
Oxford Crown Court was told that the coach driver, Rooney, was speaking to passengers on the coach via its public address system, making a "safety announcement" whilst speeding round a bend. One witness described Rooney's control of the coach as: he drove like a man "possessed". It was confirmed on the Court record that as a direct result of Rooney's actions, two persons died in the crash, and a further person died on 1 July 2007. Furthermore, four passengers had to have limbs amputated, and many more needed to be cut from the wreckage by fire fighters using specialist cutting equipment. The Court also heard that Rooney had previous speeding convictions, and that Rooney had repeatedly exceeded speed limits on this journey, as proven by tachograph evidence. Rooney's manner of driving, particularly his heavy braking, caused luggage to fall from the overhead baggage racks.
Prosecuting barrister Mr Richard Latham, QC, told the Court that passengers had reported that the coach was being "driven significantly faster, as if the driver was seeking to make up for lost time". Prior to the coach leaving Victoria coach station, it had been delayed by half an hour due to the luggage of one family not being able to fit on the coach. The Court heard that as Rooney approached the motorway slip road sharp bend, he was driving the coach at 55 miles per hour (89 km/h), exceeding the 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) speed limit. The coach first clipped one crash barrier; and Rooney then lost control of the vehicle. The coach then skidded sideways for some distance, before hitting a second crash barrier and finally overturning.
At an earlier Court hearing, it was confirmed that Rooney had five previous convictions for speeding in passenger vehicles. It was also confirmed that Rooney had been disciplined in December 2004 by his employer for "tampering with a speed limiter". On sentencing Rooney, the Judge, Mr Justice Gross told Rooney and the Court: "No sentence I pass can undo the events of that day and the deaths and injuries that resulted". As well as being jailed for five years, Rooney was also banned from driving for a further three years.
3 September 2007 
Crash and emergency response 
The single-decker coach, travelling southbound on the M1 motorway, which had recently stopped at Coventry, was the National Express Coach 777 service from Birmingham to London Stansted Airport, via London Luton Airport. There were 33 passengers on board at the time of the accident, of the 33 on board, 30 were injured, six with serious injuries.
The coach rolled on to its side after it clipped a kerb and then a lamp post and tree at the entry to a motorway slip road by the Newport Pagnell services area on the southbound M1 motorway. It was ultimately confirmed that the coach driver mistook the entry to the service area for a major junction on the M1.
The driver of the coach was arrested by Thames Valley Police in hospital on suspicion of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol and dangerous driving after being cut free from the wreckage. He had earlier been breath tested at the scene of the collision.
National Express decided not to withdraw the fleet of coaches to conduct tests. It was deemed that there were not any faults with the vehicles, leaving the cause of the crash to driver error.
The Chief Executive, Richard Bowker, defended the company's safety record on the Today programme, stating that drivers faced stringent tests both during the recruitment process and during their employment. He confirmed that National Express were fully co-operating with the police investigation, and insisted that it was extremely rare for National Express to have an accident like this, However, there was no mention of how National Express allowed this particular driver to get behind the wheel of their coach whilst he was over the mandatory drink-drive limit, let alone National Express's more strict limits.
The coach driver 
Two days after the crash, police were still waiting to question the coach driver. The driver had sustained serious injuries, including an injured arm and cracked ribs, and was being treated at Northampton General Hospital. Police officers had to guard the driver in hospital, until he was declared fit enough to answer police questions. The police confirmed that the slip road where the coach crashed needed to be re-surfaced due to damage caused by a diesel spill. The coach driver was later released from hospital on 10 September, and was also released on police bail, to attend Milton Keynes police station on 1 October for further questioning.
On 23 November 2007, police announced they had yet to decide whether to charge the driver. The police explained that due to delays in receiving forensic evidence, the Crown Prosecution Service were not able to make a fully informed decision on whether to bring charges. The 35-year old driver from West Bromwich, who had still not been named, was further bailed until 28 January 2008.
On 28 January 2008, the National Express coach driver, now identified as Leslie Weinberg, 36 from West Bromwich, was officially charged with driving while under the influence of excess alcohol, and a further charge of dangerous driving. He was due to appear on 12 February 2008 at Milton Keynes Magistrates' Court to answer the charges. Weinburg's actions left eight people needing hospital treatment for their injuries. Weinberg was subsequently dismissed by National Express as a result of the charge.
On 14 April 2008, Leslie Weinberg's actions were finally made public, via full evidence in Court of Law. Appearing before Judge Christopher Tyrer at Aylesbury Crown Court, Weinberg finally pleaded guilty to the two charges: driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, and dangerous driving. The Court was told that Weinberg had a drink drive reading of 145 milligrams (0.0051 oz) of alcohol in 100 millilitres (3.520 imp fl oz; 3.381 US fl oz) of blood – the UK legal limit is 80 milligrams (0.0028 oz) per 100 ml. The court was told that six passengers suffered serious injuries as a direct result of Weinberg's actions; with one man having an arm amputated. The Judge warned Weinburg to expect a jail sentence, and stated: "This is serious. The circumstances are very grave". The Judge continued: "As a result of your intoxication, you completely mistook where you were. You mistook the exit of the motorway and a number of people were seriously injured". The case was adjourned to seek medical reports on Wienburg, to re-appear during the week of 26 May 2008 for sentencing. Judge Christopher Tyrer imposed an Interim Disqualification Order which banned Weinberg from driving, and told him: "This is way past the custody threshold, and you should make arrangements accordingly".
Weinberg was sentenced on 24 June 2008. On re-appearing at Aylesbury Crown Court, it became known that Weinberg had returned from holiday the day before, and chose to stay up alone all night drinking. The court was told the following day, Weinburg then drove a National Express coach on a regular service from Birmingham to Stanstead Airport. Whilst travelling southbound on the M1, Weinberg overtook a lorry on the approach to a motorway junction. He then cut back in front of the lorry, and claimed to have mistaken the service station entry slip road for that of the actual junction exit slip road. As the coach entered the slip road, its tachograph showed that the coach was travelling at 57 miles per hour (92 km/h). It then hit a kerb, and passengers reported the coach 'took off'. It then rolled onto its side, sliding into a lamp post and a tree. Seven passengers were recorded as having suffered serious injuries, including one man who had an arm amputated.
Leslie Weinberg was jailed for ten months and fined £500. Furthermore, he was disqualified from driving for four years for the guilty plea of driving with excess alcohol, and had a further concurrent two-year disqualification for the guilty plea of dangerous driving.
A collision occurred on 4 September 2009 at Gatwick Airport, when a Ford Ka collided with and ended up underneath a National Express Coach. The single occupant of the car, 34-year-old Melanie Wisden from Ely, Cardiff was crushed and killed instantly. She had just dropped a friend off at Gatwick Airport's North Terminal. The coach driver was taken to hospital and treated for shock. One coach passenger suffered a minor wrist injury. The subsequent road closures caused tailbacks stretching back as far as the M25 and beyond.
See also 
- List of bus operators of the United Kingdom
- Scottish Citylink
- Coach transport in the United Kingdom
- About National Express
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