* Prices may differ from that shown
So I am sitting on service 035 back to Bournemouth from London and I think to myself what better place to write a review on National Express.
They may have a myriad of issues with ticket restrictions, but they are well documented elsewhere so I won't drag them up again.
Similarly, everyone has documented their onboard experiences, and as I am on time, warm, comfortable and the WiFi works you don't want to hear about that.
What I will tell you about is a little known and unpublicised way of buying cheap tickets direct from National Express.
It is not mentioned on their website or any publicity but if you are a regular traveller you can buy a 10 journey ticket valid for 12 months at a price per ticket of around half that of a standard tickets starting price - for example a 10 journey ticket from Bournemouth to Southampton (around 30 miles) will set you back £29.00 or £2.90 per trip - about the same price as a bus within Bournemouth.
Where can you get them I hear you say? The bad news is they are not online, you have to go to your local office where they will print them for you.
When can I use them? They are open tickets and can be used at any time. The down side is that they do not guarantee a seat if the coach is full, but turn up early and my experience is that you will be OK - for example the bus I am on is barely a third full and this supposed to be a busy route.
Who are they for? Anyone! But particularly useful for students, commuters and for places you want to visit a few times a year.
The other disadvantage is that you have to ride National Express - but if you are looking for cost effective travel, try this!
3 stars for a reasonable service plus 1 for this ticket less 1 for not publicising it!
Thanks for reading!
My 19 year old daughter was unwell and developed a high temperature whilst travelling from St Austell to London Victoria. She was travelling alone. She felt sick and dizzy so her boyfriend went to Heathrow to collect her and save her the rest of the journey to Victoria. She had already been travelling from St Austell for 6 hours. The driver was very rude to her and refused to get her case off at Heathrow whilst unloading other passengers. Her boyfriend had to travel all the way back to Victoria to meet her. This is absolutely unacceptable and I will be taking this complaint to other sources. My daughter is now in bed quite poorly and stressed. She will not be using this service again.
The driver on the National Express from Weymouth to Bournmouth No. PP115.needs to attend courtesy management course. The coach was about 20 mins late and no apologies given. He was the most miserable driver we've ever encountered. He also insisted on checking every passengers travel cards while waiting in the rain. Most people had booked on-line therefore you would have to have a card to get the reduction, it's common sense. Unfortunately my wife did not have her card (first time user) and the driver went to great lengths to charge her full fare and enjoyed pointing out the small print on the ticket. (even more waiting in the rain). I understand the rule of carrying the card if you were purchasing on the coach but when you have already purchased on-line it's not necessary as we had proof of ID (driving licence). Need to update your rules.
We spent two manic hours on Friday evening @ Vctoria, waiting for a 594 bus to Edinburgh which was allegedly broken down (so staff claimed). The staff were claiming they were doing "the best they can" to find a replacement bus, but couldn't provide any timescales. Our suspicion is there was an error in the booking system (huge overbooking). We saw the bus 594 departing but it didn't take even half of the waiting passengers and after that we saw a NE guy actually counting remaining passengers (!). No one had the guts to tell us that there won't be any other bus available. We gave up after two hours anyway.
Arrived early to the bus station from the airport, asked if it was possible to catch the earlier bus, bus was half empty, and no other pickups needed. Supervisor at Victoria refused to let me travel earlier. Why? There would have been two less seats needed on the later bus (which was full to capacity), there would have been no extra cost to national express, but two very grateful customers. We eventually caught the later bus, awful journey, heating was so hot that I couldn't put my feet on the floor as the metal grate was burning hot. Terrible smell from the toilets. Cheap tickets are just not worth the pain, airport parking for me from now on. Awful company, avoid if possible.
I bought an amendable and refundable ticket, but to cancel or amend you have to call their 08717 number which charges 10p a minute. I called them twice this morning only to be kept on hold for 15 minutes each time and have still not got through. It appears they make it as hard as possible for anyone to do this. Amendable and refundable ticket doesn't mean much with National Express. I can't keep ringing them from work. £17 out of pocket. Am thankful it's not more, and will definitely not book with them again. Absolutely disgusting way to treat customers. Will continue to travel by train. At least they have a very good compensation policy and don't ignore their customers.
I am a regular customer of National Express, but only because I have to be.
My main issue is with their ticketing system and amendment policies. If you purchase a "fun fare" ticket and have to amend it, it is quite expensive.
It seems pretty clear that National Express mainly sells "fun fare" tickets. Since their main customer base is purchasing these tickets, I do not understand why they do not change their policies. Their current policies are a recipe for a very unhappy customer and a driver who has to deal with it. Sadly, the drivers are unable to deal with ticket issues, so they are left with a very irritated customer and cannot do anything about it, which probably leaves them feeling frustrated.
I once arrived for my regular 5:45am service and realized I had a ticket for the 5:00. This was my mistake, but mistakes happen. I pleaded with the driver to let me on as I did not have enough cash to buy a new ticket and I was unable to call National Express to buy a new ticket. The driver was unable to do anything and left me behind. When I finally got my phone working I amended my ticket and it cost me four times the original ticket value. I complained about this situation, as this is a service I take regularly and it is just bad to leave a regular customer behind for a minor mistake. I received a useless voucher.
I also had recommended national express to my friends who were catching a service from Gatwick. Their flight was delayed and they missed their coach and wound up having to buy entirely new tickets for the next one.
I am not going to complain about the extreme heat or bad smells I have experienced as a customer of National Express, I understand that there are some things that you have to deal with. There are things I appreciate, like how many services run and that they tend to be on time. They also have pretty decent seats. It just seems so strange that they have a ticketing system and policies that are so clearly a recipe for disgruntled customers. It makes me believe that they truly do not care about their customers or providing a positive experience.
I hope that national express does a survey and assesses these policies. I also hope the find a way to make a system that rewards their regular customers instead of penalizing them.
Every time I visit England I usually travel from one of the airports to my destination by National Express Coach. I've always used this method of transport as I find it easy to organise and pay online without any problems.
I generally book two or three months ahead through their website. It's easy enough - enter journey details; where you are travelling from and where to, state a time and whether you wish to purchase a single or return ticket. Once you have filled all the necessary information in you then make a payment by keying in your credit card details. Once confirmed an eticket will be sent to your email address which you print out to give to the friendly driver.
Over the years I can't grumble about any of my journeys or drivers. I have found National Express Coaches time management impeccable, having never had to wait for a coach. Some drivers have been very chatty, not bothered about looking at my ticket and been helpful by placing my rucksack in the luggage hold of the coach. Others have been quiet, scrutinised my ticket and made me handle my own luggage. I don't have a problem with either of these types of drivers.
Now, you are thinking is this the end of the review. No, it isn't because on the last journey I made from Edinburgh to Newcastle in June, I met a driver who didn't fit into either of these categories. God knows where National Express found this one from because he was really something else and I hope our paths never meet again.
Actually, at the beginning of the journey he was the co-driver, the one dishing out all the orders. I could see when he was being officious over luggage concerns and generally grumpy with everyone that he was going to be a pain but I was tired and thought once I sat back in my seat, I would drop off to sleep and forget about him. It wasn't that easy. He had a sharp, penetrating voice, devoid of humour or charm. Not only was he very strict about rules laid down in the handbook regarding seat belts, no smoking or drinking on the coach which I agree with, he went on and on about keeping the toilet clean and if passengers were going to eat anything, could they make sure they didn't leave any rubbish as he didn't want to clean up after anyone. Fair enough. We all heard the first time but he did get his needle stuck on several occasions.
Now, this journey from Edinburgh to Newcastle goes the scenic route covering a lot of high ground, featuring deep, dark rugged hills and green dales with sheep roaming about. I missed some of the beauty spots because I did nod off but then I was abruptly awoken by a thud and the front wheel of the coach hitting a curb. Nothing too serious but obviously the driver who wasn't the officious one didn't know how to tuck his corners in and was wild on the steering, I could see a slight wave of panic among the passengers but at this stage all was as well as could be expected. My husband commented about the driving and said that he was driving too fast for the tight bends and narrow roads.
Our driver carried on at this frantic pace and the journey felt more like a trip across the North Sea in a storm than crossing the Scottish lowlands on a summer's day. After 30 minutes on the road the mad steering had started to induce travel sickness among the passengers, first starting with two children who were sat behind me. Their mother quietly walked to the front of the bus to ask the co-driver for black bags. He gave her 2 and then said that he couldn't spare any more in case anyone else was sick. Within minutes other people started to walk to the back of the coach to the loo. We were very close to the back and I was prepared to hold my nose. One old chap looked very white and instead of standing in the loo out of the way he kept walking up and down, passing my husband with a ghostly image. My husband kept ducking; he was worried in case something nasty came his way and hit him in the face. While all this was going on the driver was still behaving like he was in a rally and the co-driver was ranting and raving at the passengers to stay in their seats. The old boy couldn't stay still and started swearing at the driver to stop the coach. Eventually he did, at Galashiels.
At this stage of the journey, the lady with the two children got off and so did the sickly gent but not to leave the coach, to have words with the co-driver. In fact, it was a heated argument which ended up by both people coming back on the coach and the old man being humiliated by the words of the irate co-driver who became the driver in charge. There was a threat of leaving him behind if he carried on complaining and he said he wasn't going to be sworn at.
What a carry on! Terrible driving, not enough sick bags, air conditioning wasn't turned on until it was too late and half the passengers were overheated and feeling queasy. I have travelled on National Coaches for over 30 years and I've never seen anything like that before. To top all this, we arrived one hour late due to hitting heavy traffic coming into Newcastle.
Actually, I was relieved when the co-driver became the driver. Things calmed down because his driving was much smoother and we weren't being thrown around all over the place plus the driving gave him something to concentrate on and he was silent for the rest of the journey.
The question I ask myself now, is will I use National Express again. Yes, I think so. This experience was rare. I was slightly annoyed at the time but I can look back and see the funny side. On the other hand, the customer care on that occasion was appalling and I didn't understand why the co-driver/driver was behaving so off hand with the passengers. Everybody can have an off day, I guess but I did think this chap was out of order.
Our tickets cost £8.50 each (single) and the journey duration should have been 3 hours 15 minutes but we arrived an hour later.
I didn't make a complaint because I don't generally but I could have done by going on to their website, hitting the Contact Us tab and then clicking on the Make a Complaint tab, on the drop down menu.
The three stars I have awarded is an average score taking this rare experience into account.
I catch national express coaches a few times a year, mainly to London and a few times to Southampton or Portsmouth. I chose coach as it always at least half the price of trains (prices vary depending on day, time and holidays), I usually go up to London for a day and for a return ticket (I live in Bournemouth so the journeys 2-3 hours) and usually costs me between £18-£25 when on the train it usually costs double this.
I have never had a problem with National express, booking your ticket online is easier than any other form of transport I have looked at, you choose your destination, your date and time and then you are offered the times throughout the day which vary slightly in costs and length of journeys. There is always a good selection of times, usually every hour or atleast every two hours depending where you are going. The ticket can be sent to you by mail, mobile or email which you can either print or show on your phone, every single way is convenient.
You are always advised to arrive at your departure stop 10minutes early, however a coach will never leave early, always, always on time it says it is leaving and no later so you must make sure you are there! The driver will pack any luggage you have with you as you get on and then you can choose where to sit as there are no reserved seats. The only bad thing about the coach is that it is nearly always full which can a bit annoying sometimes but generally is okay as long as you don't get stuck with people on their phones so in this case it's much like being on a train. I do find the coach more relaxing as the seats are more comfortable and you have more to look out in the window, especially when getting into the city!
The seats are comfortable, most now have leathery seats and are quite squishy to sit on, they lean back only a little and you have the choice of a small foot rest but I find this unhelpful personally. I have short legs so don't need much room but if you have long legs I suggest getting an aisle seat so you can stretch your legs into the aisle. The coaches are always exceptionally clean too. Seatbelts must be worn but they are only waist ones and aren't uncomfortable. The driver will announce on a speaker when stops are coming up so you don't need to be worried about missing your stop!
There is toilet at the back which I have always avoided using as I thought it would pretty dire however I once needed it really badly and found it was very clean. The door locked very easily and I wasn't worried about it opening by accident. The toilet is small but not particularly uncomfortable and flushed. There was a small basin but no paper towels (I just used hand sanitizer gel so no problem for me!), there was even a mirror but I doubt you'd be able to apply makeup, standing up on a moving vehicle!
I often get the last coach home which is always 11 or 11.30 (and once nearly missed it!), this is my favourite time to get the coach as the driver turns all the lights off and I can nod off as the coach is usually empty and I have space to curl up over two seats. The coach also has curtains to block out light and lights and air conditioning above your head.
If you want to leave and catch an earlier coach which you have not been booked on, you can ask the driver of that coach to see if there are any spaces left and they will let you hop on if there is which is great as some trains don't always have this offer.
Overall I really recommend National Express as they are helpful and easy coaches to use with nice drivers who also help get your luggage out from underneath when you get off. The prices are really great, nearly always cheaper than trains. The journeys are often half an hour longer but coaches are cheaper and more comfortable, I find trains much harder and numb my bum quicker!
In my continued quest for cheaper travel between Manchester and Bristol I came to my last option, National Express.
Why not my first option? Well, its always been the train firstly, mainly for snob value I guess. Then it was a toss up between Megabus and National Express. I've always always this notion of National Express being cramped dirty coaches with rank toilets. A few weeks ago I took the Megabus, it was an excellent price of £8 but comfort was not on their priority list. The prices to take my son back to Bristol was also getting expensive at £34.00 for myself.
So I looked at National Express again. The blurb on the website assures me that they go to 500 destinations all over the UK and Europe and I have not reason to doubt them. They also provide transport for all the major festivals and events as well.
Again the website was a logistical nightmare. There's their 'Lowest Fare Finder' Click on where you are going from, find out it doesn't go where you want it to, so go for a halfway point, then from there to your destination. It usually comes up with an impressive price of under a tenner. So you click on the day showing that price and lo and behold its disappeared and the full price is there. And back and forward you'll flip pages to no avail!
Unlike Megabus there are discounts and different prices. 0-2 yr olds are free based on the premise they sit with a parent and don't occupy a seat. 2-15yr olds pay child prices. Over 60's travel free and disabled local authority concessionary travel passes pay 50% less. There are also Family Travel cards available.
Now the disabled travellers, I am sure you used to have to apply for a Disabled Concessionary Pass, cant remember if you had to pay for it. M
y first attempt to find a journey with prices ending up at £34 for a single journey I finally got it for £9 each way with a rather annoying 50p booking fee. However it was at a inconvenient time. Oh, and beware the next page which tries to automatically add £1 travel insurance. So finally a return ticket for me to Bristol and a single for my son which cost £17.95, without my pass it would have been £40. Oh, and a 5hr journey to boot!
Without discussing it I think public transport charge silly prices especially when it comes to more than 1 or 2 people travelling. It would have been over a £100 for myself, partner, daughter and son (We wouldn't qualify for a Family card). So we may as well go in the car and avoid sitting in small seats, sitting next to people with B.O problems, not have to listen to life stories, tell your own life story without strangers listening and avoid those toilets!
We travelled on the 9th August which ended up being the day of the worse riots in Manchester and more rioting in Birmingham, and Bristol had been the scene of riots the previous day. It was like Riot City Coach Tours! I mention it because it has some bearing on the service we received.
Manchester coach station is new and modern, there's plenty of staff around to help but I hate having to pay for toilets. Thankfully the coach left on time as we missed the rioting by about 10 minutes.
The coach itself was clean and tidy with much more legroom than the Megabus. We tend to sit right back on the back 3 seats. The masses of room usually makes up for a bit of a whiffy toilet. The coach we changed to at Birmingham was just luxurious. Leather seats, big toilet, fabulous! Oh and free wi-fi.
In fact I cant complain about the coaches. The one I got back to Manchester was a bit older, but technically its not a National Express coach, its a replacement but still more comfortable than the Megabus. So for the standard of the coaches I have no complaints.
Birmingham coach station is also new and extremely clean. It's also well equipped with a Starbucks, WH Smiths and snackbar. There's also plenty of seating.
It was quite interesting to be able to outside for a ciggie before our connecting coach and suddenly see 40 young men running down the street with their faces covered, shouting, followed by a few policemen and police car!
Obviously the staff had been briefed as the front entrance was swiftly and calmed locked and security guards moved to the side entrances ready to close them. An announcement was made and all coaches stopped.
My biggest peeve was that although they kept giving out announcements about no smoking they didn't keep us up to date with the situation. Thankfully we only had to wait an hour before normal service resumed.
Bristol coach station is a clone of the others, but with limited facilities.
The trip back to Birmingham the next day was uneventful, well uneventful in that a lot of roads were closed off by the police. Then it arose that the drivers hadn't actually been told about the road closures leading our driver following another coach in the hope that he knew the alternative way to the station. We arrived to a station of siege. Doors closed, coaches not running and security guards everywhere.
And no information on what was happening.
Still we were eventually on the coach to Manchester where, as we found out from the coach driver we wouldn't actually get to Manchester Central station until we got to Manchester Airport. Well thanks for that info!
So has my view on National Express changed? Well yes it has certainly become an option, in fact I travelled on it yesterday managing to find a £9.50 fare buried in amongst the the £34 ones! I'm not happy about the lack of update information particularly when you're in, what was quite a scary situation. I absolutely hated the website, it was confusing and you could rarely get the prices advertised. But this seems to be the norm with travel websites. Prices are still expensive for the 'ordinary' person. Prices can still be £34 for a single to Bristol from Manchester (compared to Megabus)
Unfortunately from 31st October the Government is withdrawing funding for the concessionary travel. National Express have now started doing a Disabled Coachcard which costs £10 and gives you a 1/3rd off all fares. It's better than nothing I suppose but I'm a little unhappy that the tickets are refundable as others all, you also cant use it for FunFares so I now have to check the disabled fare and the Funfare to see which is cheaper.
I found the staff extremely helpful including the driver and the staff in the coach stations when I had questions. The stations were bright, airy and clean compared to the dingy, dirty places I remembered. The coaches were perhaps the biggest surprise, clean, large and plenty of leg room. The larger person may still have a few problems in the toilet though!
I originally wrote this before my last journey with National Express so I feel it needs a little updating! Again with my son I travelled from Bristol to Manchester, we aboarded the rather old non-National Express coach to be told there was a fault and would be adding 20 minutes to our journey to go and get a new one which was annoying to say the least. We arrived at this little coachyard to get onto the replacement which was nicer and newer. Unfortunately we got less than 2 miles down the road before this one broke down necessitating a 40 minute wait by the side of the road before a third arrived to transport us on the first leg of our journey to Birmingham. Amazingly we got there with 5 minutes to spare before the connecting the coach. Hurrah we went glad to be on the last bit home! Well, hurrah till the coach filled up with smoke, well done to the rest of the passengers who managed to disembark with no panic. Of course this did mean we had to stand by the side of a dual carriageway! I must admit us passengers who'd travelled up from Bristol with us did look at each other in total disbelief! The control room rather oddly declared the bus to be safe to drive (it was steam luckily, rather than smoke) and we limped into Wolverhampton Bus Station on this grinding coach with the driver not being able to control it very well due to some problem with the power steering.
We then had to wait 40 minutes for our replacement and I have to say it was very nice with leather seats and a toilet you could actually turn round in. The driver did take our names and addressess with promises from the control room that we would be contacted because of the issues, of course we havent been. So in the end a very weary bunch of travellers who'd had 5 different coaches from the South West to Manchester and taking several hours, well for those coming from Newquay it took 13 hours. I was disappointed with the service this time, awful buses and crap communication with the driver having to keep ringing the control room, who was lovely by the way and I couldnt fault her! And that reminds me, I really must write that complaint!
So I'm recommending using National Express, even with their prices they're still comparable to the train or even driving.
Living in Scotland and having married someone with family down in Birmingham on occasion we will go down for a visit with her family which we used to do by plane but following on from a couple of bad experiences my wife is no longer the biggest fan of flight and with the trains expensive for these journeys we began to use coaches to carry out this journey. Previously we were using Megabus but when an offer came available for a cheap trip with National Express we decided to give them a chance and here is what we have found.
National Express is a very large scale coach company which means that if you do have issues with any coach tecnical problems they are able to bring in contract coaches which I have now used on about 2 or 3 occasions when travelling with National Express. This was something that concerned me at first but they do try to ensure that you are still getting a good quality of coach and the same level of service as you would on their own coaches.
The coach trips themselves are very long meaning that comfort is important and National Express do give a fairly comfortable journey with good leg room and leather seats as standard meaning that you are able to try to relax and just enjoy the journey. This added to the person air blower and light above your seat make it so that you have some tools to try to make sure you are as comfortable as you can be.
The fleet of coaches I have experienced have all been modern and well maintained with little noise and comfort something focussed on. The coaches all have a toilet on board also meaning that you can be on the road for hours without the need for the coach stop every hour for toilet breaks.
The drivers are very courteous and professional and will keep you upto date with what is going on so if there are going to be delays then it is something they will be honest about and tell you (this is from personal experience from when we were stuck in a traffic jam due to a death on the motorway where the driver advised us of the alternate route he would take and how much time he believed this would be adding to the journeys).
Extra coaches if needed. We have on a couple of occasions now turned up at the coach station and been told our coach is going to be on the left as they have decided to lay on a coach from Glasgow straight to Birmingham rather than needing to go via all other stops. This is something I like and whilst it does not always get us there quicker it is nice that I don't have people banging into me as they clamber on with all of their bags in their hands trying to find their magazine.
Overhead space allows for you to put your coat and bag with your juice and magazine out of the way if not required and therefore allows you much more comfort for those times you wish to sleep or just look out of the window.
I have so far had a good experience with National Express punctuality and where there are any delays the driver does apologise and you do have an explanation offered.
Many deals offering good value for money make this an excellent option for your cross country travel needs.
Easy to book tickets using the website which is very well designed and simple to operate.
I have been on a National Express coach between Birmingham and Glasgow where the air conditioning was broken and the driver was advised to continue on leading to temperatures being over 30 degrees in the coach which was almost unbearable. This is something I found to be very disappointing but again we did have an apology and explanation from the driver.
Overall I would highly recommend using National Express for your cross country journeys as they offer up great value for money, comfortable and relaxing travel with the stations being in places easily accessible (not like Megabus who leave you in the middle of nowhere in Birmingham city centre and can't provide you a postcode for someone to pick you up).
Having recently returned back from a short break in Brighton I felt it necessary to talk about National express as this is what we used to return back home.
Our journey began at Brighton coach station where we got onto the coach which was already there and waiting. The driver let us onto the coach about 3 minutes before departing and I must admit I did not expect to have to put my own luggage on board especially considering it was throwing it down with rain. Just before boarded everyone has to show the driver your reference number which you get when you book and you just print off the email. This method is very easy as you don't need to receive any tickets.
Once on board I was very surprised how nice the coach was, for example the seats were incredibly comfort and were leather which made it more luxurious. Also I noticed that each passenger gets a brief information pack on safety guidelines which are good to know. The coach also had a toilet on board which a lot of people seemed to use. Having got a seat at the back I thought it would be a bad place as it was next to the toilet but I think they must have had an air freshener in there as it smelt really fresh and clean. There was also the usual air conditioning and heating facilities above your seats which was good as older coaches always seem to be really hot and stuffy and this was totally opposite.
When we departed from Brighton we left dead on time which I was impressed by and then from there on we made numerous stops along the way including Gatwick airport which people boarded on and off fairly quickly and the driver kept us informed throughout through the coach sound system. During the journey it seemed smooth and was in comfort throughout.
Upon arrival at Victoria we had to change coaches and we managed to do this but this could have been better sign posted to which stop we was getting on at. This also took off at about the time it should have done and boarding the coach was done easily. This next stage of our journey took the longest and was the least enjoyable. We did however have a stop for a walk and food halfway but then ran into very heavy traffic which made our journey time around an hour longer than it should have done.
Price wise I couldn't have got a better deal to Brighton as it cost two of us £18 one way which is a bargain really, although this was a summer special offer. We booked it online through their website which was easy to do and simple to understand and we just printed our reservation number off.
Really this could be a good service, and would be if it were managed by a half decent company. We booked tickets on Saturday for travel sunday morning. We paid twice as much for the pleasure of traveling by train. You can imagine our frustration when we arrived to find there was a bus replacement service in place. It was swarmed by an overwhelming amount of stressed holiday makers. Did National express offer refunds, NO. Did they provide information at booking or on the website that there was replacement service. You've guessed it, Of course not. Did they appreciate our frustration? Need I say more, I recomended you buy a bus ticket for £8 and save yourself the stress. Happy holidaying X
I've been to a fair few countries and travelled on a number of different bus services. It's safe to say that National Express is far from the worst bus company I've ever used (that would go to one in Vietnam) but as the UK's premier bus company really NE should be striving to meet higher standards.
The Buses - Good points
They look great on the outside. They have toilets, but it's potluck whether they'll work properly or not. On my recent trip back England I used NE five times. I used the toilet on two of those trips - once there was water to wash your hands, once there was not. The ride is smooth and the air con worked fine on all of the trips I took.
The Buses - Bad points
The seats are uncomfortable. Most of my trips were between 2 - 4 hours, and it was impossible to get comfortable at any time. I'm 6ft, regular build. And the seatbelts make it worse - I know that they are UK law now but they are tight and gave me shoulder ache. It wasn't a surprise to see that most people on my bus weren't using them. In addition, while the seats have a recline function it's pretty minimal, about three inches. On one of my journeys the seat didn't recline at all because the handle had been snapped off.
For a full list, look at their website, but here is where I find it difficult to fault National Express. They do have a very extensive network of journeys, although for a lot of outlying areas you have to make a lot of stops. For example, one of my journeys was from Exeter to Heathrow, but the bus had already called at Paignton and Torquay so it must have been a pretty long, arduous journey for those passengers. I live in Cornwall and it's impossible however to get with forty miles of my home town, but really I can understand why some areas have no service because of the ridiculous fuel prices in the UK, but from major city to major city it's no problem. Frequency is also pretty good.
And here they fall away again. I use NE because they're cheaper than the train, but that doesn't mean the tickets are particularly well-priced. And they have that same irritating habit of changing the price depending on the time, day, how long in advance you book, whether you book a return, etc.. At times it can be infuriating. For example, on arriving at Heathrow back in March, due to the nature of flights I hadn't booked my onward bus in advance. Therefore, I got stung with a 37.60 "on the day single" to Bristol. Painful, when the website price had said around 23 pounds. Similarly, the following week I took a bus from Bristol to London - 7.50. A wonderful bargain. The final bus of my holiday, Exeter to Heathrow, however, was 27.50, yet another bus, going to London Victoria - a longer distance - was only 11.50. So they're charging 16 pounds for the driver to unload my bag? What's going on here?
It seems that bus companies (and indeed trains) seem to think that by offering bargain-priced fares for certain times of travel they're doing the world a favour. They're not. All they're doing is creating bad feeling among everyone who has to use the bus at a different time of day. A great suggestion - make the fare between two destinations the SAME, regardless of when you book, regardless of when you want to travel. Make a return exactly double the price of a single. Stop playing games and give everyone a fair go. It's not like NE has a lot of competition, is it?
This is as variable as the wind. To be fair, on the buses I took on my last trip back to England the drivers were pretty nice and the buses were more or less punctual. In the past I've had to sit for an hour on a bus in the coach station while the driver twiddled his thumbs at the front, while on another occasion I was shouted at for not helping the driver to unload my bag. Conversely, this time I made an attempt and the driver (clearly not the same one) told me not to worry about it.
I would like it if on a longer journey the buses made a stop at a service area. My Exeter to Heathrow bus did stop at Bridgewater to pick up more passengers. Several people jumped off to smoke a cigarette or use the public toilet but the driver made no attempt to check that everyone was back on board before starting off again. Far from offering a quality service I got the impression that it was every man for himself, and if you got left behind then more fool you.
I prefer train travel to buses, but train tickets are even more ridiculously priced than those of NE and when you're making a number of journeys on a budget you have to save where you can. National Express does a passable job but its a service that could easily be improved. For myself, its very easy to criticise because I live in Japan where bus travel is extremely punctual, the prices are always the same regardless of when you book or when you travel, the seats are comfortable and have a decent level of recline, and the drivers are polite almost to the point of cariacature. However, having also travelled widely in poorer parts of Asia I've come into contact with the kind of services where the driver will stop off at his mate's out-of-the-way restaurant and promptly go to sleep under a tree, leaving you with nothing to do but wander around until you get hungry enough to spend money as per the plan.
National Express is far closer to the former, but for my liking not close enough.
terrible service. if you look for a return fare, by selecting one of the outward options, the return prices suddenly change. plus, sometimes the fares don't add up. i'm just looking for tickets to london from bristol. outward journey £13.70, return £9.50. total fare £25? are you serious? i'm pretty sure they add up to £23.20. at no stage do they give you a summary of what it's costing, just a total. absolute con artists!
National Express is the brand under which the majority of long distance bus and coach services in the United Kingdom are marketed, and also the company that manages this network and operates some of the services. Many other services are subcontracted to local bus and coach companies throughout the UK. The brand and company are based in Birmingham and are owned by the National Express Group, a group of diverse transport interests also including passenger rail operators and local bus operators.