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National Express coaches
Member Name: Ryu4
Advantages: Good value for money
Disadvantages: No contingency when things go wrong
I make two return trips from Bournemouth to London every week for work. I used to drive all the time, but the cost of petrol and wear and tear on my car made me reassess, hence I started to use National Express on a regular basis.
The coaches themselves are as comfortable as they can be. They have foot rests, overhead luggage storage, booster seats and special seatbelts for children, and a toilet- that usually works.
Most of the drivers are friendly and pleasant to talk to, some are quite grumpy-but these are few and far between. The information staff at Victoria coach station are next to useless. Last time I was delyed leaving by over an hour, a message saying delayed appeared 10 minutes after the departure time. Every time I asked for further information they told me to take a seat and they would let us know when they had some information- it never came.
National Express offer excellent value for money. My standard return fare is in the region of £25, cheaper than petrol. But where National Express excel is there reduced 'funfare' tickets- these are booked for a specific date and time. If I book well enough in advance I can pay £10-£12 for a return. Sometimes you can be fortunate enough to get a £2 return ticket!
Booking a funfare return on the day of travel I can usually still pick up a ticket for £17. The only trouble with 'funfare' tickets is that your ticket can not be transfered to a another service- whether you are early or late for your coach.
On my route, as on many others National Express run a service every hour. The journey time is a little longer than the car, but my route doesn't take in many stops which helps. The commuter coach I catch to get me into London Victoria for 8.20 AM usually gets in early by 10-20 minutes most mornings. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been late for work, due to the coach, in the last few years. I have experienced more trouble trying to get back home on a coach at 18.30 or 19.30. Quite often I have experienced delays due to earlier accidents/traffic that has a knock on effect throughout the service.
WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
When a coach breaks down National Express don't seem to have a contingency plan involving spare coaches and drivers. Once my coaches wind screen wipers stopped working. We sat at the roadside for two hours waiting for a mechanic. We were told that all the coaches behind us were full. Eventually National Express laid on taxis-however they were told to take us to Southampton(not a scheduled stop, adding further time to an already greatly delayed service) to pick up another coach there! Eventually after arguing with their customer service they authorised the taxi that I was in to go onto Bournemouth- all the others went to Southampton though.
National Express offer a comfortable experience at a good(sometimes great) price. Services 9 times out of 10 run on time. But when things go wrong, they really go wrong.
Summary: A good service at a good price
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