Time For The Coach?….

I have always been an unabashed fan of the humble coach, I have grown up with it from my earliest memories it has been part of my world. In fact the truth is that I like it or not I was born into it, my dad back in the day was once the MD of National Express Coach Company so I have always had an interest in the world of coach travel.

As a teenager I used to use the National Express Coach network a lot, as many previous blogs have testified, highlighting the good, the bad, and the occasional ugly experiences. In the past as a Manager of multiple bus depots, I have operated coach services, as a contractor to National Express back in the late eighties and early nineties, and I have also operated a competitive coach route with the 49 service that used to operate between Swansea and Liverpool, ironically competing with National Express.

I have managed Coach drivers across several Companies, they were mostly proud and highly professional people, they regarded themselves as the “creme de la creme”of the PCV world. Indeed I can still remember the specially made white coats with majestic purple piping that the coach drivers used to wear when cleaning their coaches. Back then they were allocated their own personal coach and when not driving they lavished care and attention on ensuring that it was immaculate both inside and out. Yes, it is fair to say that I have watched both the rise and the fall of the coach over the decades.

And now it is with sense of optimism that I am starting to see the rise of the coach as a real, positive, and low cost, high value means of mass transit. Indeed I was delighted to be invited by my friend David Sidebotham a Director of Transport Focus to attend a conference taking place at Heathrow. The event is designed to focus on two key elements. The first element is around airports, 25 million passenger journeys are made each year in the UK to major interchanges especially airports. The conference will examine what drives choice of airport, and how decisions about surface access to airports are made.

The second part will will focus around coach use more generally ; where coach fits in to the considerations set for longer journeys and what are passengers experiences and perceptions of coach travel. Of course over the last ten years as an employee of uTrack I have seen up close and personal just what amazing progress has been made for enhancing the passenger experiences with the introduction of new technologies and serious investment in both vehicle quality and staff training. The truth is that in my opinion the coach offers reallly excellent flexibility when it comes to interchange access. In addition it offers excellent value for money, but this is just not realised yet.

This conference is being organised by Transport Focus, The Department of Transport, and Heathrow airport itself. Individually heavy hitters but collectively a powerful and influential lobby. For me this is a huge step, and I am delighted that uTrack have been invited in recognition of just how advanced cloud based technology has helped slowly reform the whole coach experience. I will of course be reporting back on my observations, and I am genuinely looking forward to listening to a truly impress panel of presenters. To use a popular footballing parlance, maybe, just maybe, Coach is coming home…we will see.

Written by Austin Birks

February 11, 2019

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