Newest Review: ... 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... more
Riot city tours, breakdown hilarity, it can only be National Express!
Member Name: Emma1973
Advantages: You can find some competitive prices
Disadvantages: 5 buses to get from Bristol to Manchester!
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.
Summary: A bus company that provides some great hilarity!
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