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mattjones17

mattjones17
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Member since: 07.04.2007

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      24.10.2007 16:29
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      Consider it for getting to the airport and for their short breaks.

      Hi, and welcome to my review of National Express. I hope you find it useful and informative.

      Firstly, I would like to introduce myself, why I was on National Express and how qualified I am to review it.

      I have made 16 individual journeys on National Express (8 return journeys), and all but two of these have been on National Expresses Night 404 Service (Cornwall-London).

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      1. Cost 4/5
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      National Express Services are generally the cheapest way to get from A to B in the UK, however advance tickets and railcards can narrow the gap quite between rail and coach quite significantly. National Express do also have some very very cheap 'funfare' tickets between major cities (Plymouth-London was £1 at one point on selected services)

      National Express also do some fantasic cheap city breaks in partnership with 'Octopus Travel', if you want to go on holiday in london, and I believe europe as well I would strongly recommend you check this out, it is well worth putting up with any shortcomings of the coach, as their hotel breaks are fantastically great value, we went on one to London a few years ago and we actually found the cost of the coach travel and hotel stay was cheaper than it would have been if we had just booked the hotel directly! It's also great to have it all arranged for you.

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      2. Speed 2.5/5
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      This is where National Express really loses out to the train. In fact, the 'Express' in the name isn't really applicable.

      On the fastest train, it takes around 3 hours to get from Plymouth to London (assuming it is running on time), whereas National Expresses best offering is 5 hours 25 minutes. This is not just a bad example, National Express is a lot slower than other means of transport

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      3. Reliability 5/5
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      This is where, sometimes, National Express is much better than the train.

      National Express services run bang on time, so don't reckon on the coach leaving a few minutes late, they reverse out of the bay bang on the dot (the timetable gives enough time for loading etc) and I believe it is National Express policy not to open the doors once the coach has left the bay.

      Travelling by road, there are likely to be delays. However they do their best to minimise this, I am told that there is a control centre which monitors where coaches are and reported traffic problems, and diverts the coach around the problem before it gets to it, minimizing delays.

      Thankfully, I've never had a breakdown on a National Express service, so I can't comment on that. On most of the times I have traveled on National Express I have found we actually get to the stop about 5 or10 minutes ahead of schedule, and this seems to be more apparent on services coming into London rather than out of London.
      Judging by the current reliability of First Great Western and other train companies, I am much more comfortable taking a National Express coach to catch a flight than I would be on a train.

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      4. Convenience 5/5
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      Here is another area where National Express is better than the train. On National Express, your baggage is taken off you by the driver before you board the bus, and it is stowed in compartments under the coach. As I have travelled on National Express, generally to catch flights and on one occasion on holiday (as above) with lots of bags I find this a huge help.

      If you are going to the airport (I can only talk from experience of Heathrow), I would strongly advise you to consider National Express simply because it is so convenient.

      Your bags are taken off you, and instead of having to then drag them around Paddington station changing to a 'Heathrow Express'(which is apparently hugely expensive), you get out directly at Heathrow's Central Bus Station, and the driver puts your bags directly onto your trolley, and that's it!

      When we are going on holiday (we usually go to Moscow to visit family over there), we take a night coach, which arrives early in the morning with several hours to spare before the flight, and as the coach is generally very reliable there are no worries of missing the flight. It is also nice on the return journey to have no worries about getting to the railway station, you just have to get to Central Bus Station.

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      5. Comfort 3/5
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      This is a big problem area for National Express, and unfortunately I'm not able to say that newer buses are more comfortable (apart perhaps from the brand new ones advertised on their website, I havent been on them so I cant comment).

      When I first travelled on National Express, there were large and spacious double decker coaches on the service I travelled on at night. There was also a hostess service during the day.

      Presumably as passenger numbers dropped, the service became operated by single decker coaches. These were still satisfactory however.

      But over the last few years, most of the old comfortable coaches have been replaced with new ones that dont seem as comfy.

      The hostess service has also been dropped, partly because it was rarely used, some of the prices were astronomical. Instead there are now service breaks where you can stretch your legs and go to the toilet (there is a nasty little room at the back which masquerades as a toilet, it is ok for when you are desperate but not at all pleasant.).

      Another problem is that National Express will not reserve specific seats. Presumably this is so that they can 'cram them in sit them down' as quickly as possible. If you find yourself getting on a coach after a major stop (ie Heathrow, the coach has come from Victoria), you will experience first-hand what is apparently known as the National Express phenomenon.

      The coach can seat 50 people. So there will be 25 people on the coach, each occupying one side of a double seat. This is presumably because most people are travelling alone and want to sit by themselves. That means that if you are travelling with anyone, it is unlikely you will be able to sit next to them.

      The best you will get is next to them with the isle in between. And don't try and ask the stranger sitting next to you if he could move slightly so you can sit down. He will wake up, grunt, and turn his MP3 up so loud it might as well be the PA system on the bus. Then he will go back to sleep and snore for the whole journey. Luckily, as soon as the next major stop comes up, a lot of people will get off, and if you are quick enough, you will be able to get your own seat.

      Another problem with the coaches is the air con system. Drivers seem to be incapable of setting this just right, it is either so hot you almost faint (someone did actually faint on one service I was on), or so cold you will be shivering. This seems to be especially apparent on newer coaches for some reason.

      There are also several rules on coaches, No Smoking - there are smoking breaks but they are few and far between, thankfully I do not smoke (it is now in fact an offence to smoke on coaches, and don't try and smoke in the toilet, there is an alarm that will go off as I found to my amusement when a group of drunk Russians went into the toilet to smoke.) No Alcohol is allowed and No Hot Food.

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      Summary
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      On the whole I would say that National Express is worth it if you want to catch a flight or for their short breaks. It's not as comfy as the train but it is cheaper and more reliable.

      If you want to go for a day out, go on the train. It really isnt worth going on the coach as it takes an age to get there and unless there is a good reason its not worth putting up with the discomfort.

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      • More +
        19.07.2007 17:09
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        Easy to use, much tastier than instant and the coffee smells great!

        Morphy Richards have come up trumps again with the 47008 'Mr Cappuccino' coffee maker.

        I bought this machine to replace my aging filter coffee maker, and I was pleased I did so. Making coffee with a machine such as this one not only tastes better than instant, it's a whole lot more fun as well. Rather than the usual drill of putting the kettle on and waiting for it to boil. spooning out the coffee powder and pouring in the water, this actually feels like making coffee should. Don't get me wrong, instant coffee is great sometimes, but when you have the time (and it doesn't actually take that much longer), it's a lot more enjoyable to hear the steam hissing away, and the smell of freshly made coffee lingering in the house is great!

        Anyway, now onto the machine.

        Making Coffee is simple, you pour the required amount of water into the tank, put the lid back on (which can be quite easy to cross thread), and then unclip the coffee powder holder. You spoon the coffee powder into the holder with the spoon provided, screw it in, and You're ready. Press the button on the machine to start it up, and you're off. The water boils very quickly and the coffee is soon flowing. Once it has finished, a green light illuminates to alert you that your coffee is ready for consumption.

        The Machine is capable of making 10 cups of coffee. It does more than just make a simple cup of coffee however. It can also make 'Latte' and 'Cappucino'. To make these properly, you are apparently supposed to warm the milk up first. Well, this machine makes light work of that, simply pour the required amount of milk into the jug supplied, to turn on the milk warmer. This then warms the milk up to the right temperature, and turns itself off when done. If you wish to froth the milk, you can also use the inbuilt milk frother. This is in the form of an electric spinning arm over the milk warmer which froths the milk when you lift the jug and the attachment on the end comes into contact with the milk. On some coffee machines, the steam from the coffee making is actually used for this instead of an electric attachment, however the system on the 'Mr. Cappucino' is far easier to use and safer as well, and you don't have to froth the milk when the machine is boiling.

        Morphy Richard's after sales service is very good as well. On one occasion, I broke the glass coffee jug that comes with the machine. What a disaster I thought! However, I got on the phone to Morphy Richards and explained my plight, and for a very reasonable fee the polite operator dispatched an identical jug which was with me the next day.

        Other than that I have had no problems at all with this machine and the build quality is very high.

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        • More +
          19.07.2007 14:42
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          Great website which makes journey planning a breeze. If only National Rail could make it this easy.

          National Express make a big song and dance about their website, but is it any good?

          Well, while I am not a huge fan of National Express, I have used them quite a few times in recent years and to find timetables and prices the website is my natural choice. The homepage is well laid out, and searching for coaches is a doddle. If you aren't travelling to or from a major stop there is a link you can press which guides you to a page where you can input your journey details, and any discount passes you may have. It then confirms your stop and gives you a list of services. Choosing is then simple, you choose your service(s) and are then guided to a page for the possible fares you can have for the journey

          While I prefer traveling on the trains I have to say that Journey Planning on the National Express website is far better and a lot easier than the system used by the trains, this may be partly due to the fact there are many more fare options available on the trains.

          The National Express Website also gives details of the services they provide, and also links in remarkably well with the 'Octopus Travel' website, who work in conjunction with National Express to offer city breaks.

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            19.07.2007 01:04
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            Great Airline, A truly enjoyable and relaxing travel experience.

            Firstly, I would like to introduce myself and why I was flying on SWISS. I am writing this review after four flights with Swiss, which were London-Zurich-Moscow and back again. I had to go to Moscow to visit my family, and flying on Swiss wasn't a hard choice to make. A direct flight with a British Airline such as BA or BMI can be expensive, whereas Aeroflot is renown for poor customer service.

            Anyway, lets get on with the review.

            PRE FLIGHT

            I arrived at Heathrow early in the morning, and proceeded to the Swiss check-in desk. The staff were very helpful, however at Heathrow most Swiss duties are performed by Lufthansa staff as Lufthansa bought the original 'swissair' after it went bankrupt as a result of 9/11. The staff were very efficient and helpful, and any queues were non-existent (this may be partly to do with the fact it was 5.30 in the morning), so we got served instantly. We exchanged the 'receipt' tickets given to us by our travel agent for paper tickets, and a tag to put on our hand baggage (very useful but not something that other airlines have caught on to), and that was check in over.

            The Flight opened for boarding on time, so we promptly finished up the obligatory Duty-Free browse, and made our way to the gate. The ticket and passport checks were around as efficient as usual, and we were not kept waiting for too long before the plane was ready to board. Boarding was very smooth and was done to soft background music which added a quality feel to the experience.

            Coming back from Moscow, the experience was very similar, however the plane was late arriving so we had to wait for a while, which led to a tight connection in Zurich.

            DURING THE FLIGHT

            The flight was very comfortable, the seats were leather (a rarity on economy class), and legroom was more than adequate. On one flight I was seated by an emergency exit, which gave me masses of space, but the lack of a standard 'back of seat' table, which was replicated by a very clever one that folded out of an armrest.

            The plane was a modern Airbus A321, which had the usual fold down televisions which displayed a mixture of information displays and maps that went through a cycle of 5 languages, and a comedy programme which was actually very funny even with a lack of sound.

            The cabin crew were helpful and friendly, and were led by a 'Maitre de Cabine', which I suppose is a Chief Cabin Crew member. On shorter flights (90 minutes or under), a 'snack' is served, where either a muffin or a sandwich is served, along with the usual drinks as well as an individually wrapped square of swiss chocolate. On flights over 90 minutes, a hot meal is served, which is very good, and consists of the usual, as well as two rounds of cold drinks, and a round of tea and coffee. On these longer flights Duty Free is also available.

            Connections

            Making a connection genuinely is a breeze, and is the best connection experience I've ever had on flying this journey 7 times. Before you land at Zurich, onward connections and their respective gates are displayed on the overhead screens. On landing, there is a representative waiting at the end of the walkway, who tells you exactly what gate to go to for your onward flight. This is a feature I have not seen on any other airline, and when we almost missed our connection coming back to London, 'SEE GROUND STAFF' was displayed on the overhead screens, and it was nice to speak to a member of SWISS staff at the gate, who was also armed with a CB radio, which they could use to contact staff at the onward gate to inform them you are coming and to delay push back. This contrasts starkly with a terrible experience I had with Lufthansa several years ago when my flight was running late. If you are unlucky enough to miss your flight, the ground staff will either book you on the next flight of the day, or pay for you to stay in a hotel free of charge.

            Making a connection at Zurich is also a breeze, there is one simple terminal which is well signposted (again a stark contrast with my Lufthansa experience). The terminal is very new and spotlessly clean.

            On Arrival at both Moscow and London, my baggage arrived intact and promptly.

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