Coaches are set to play a part in the transport operation to enable homeward travel for many during December. Operators of scheduled services and other providers alike are providing additional capacity and National Express is liaising with the Department for Transport to ensure that what it calls a “national coach network” is provided during the month, although its overall provision will still be a fraction of pre-pandemic levels.

National Express has added to an already-announced move that will capitalise on the early December student exodus by complementing that work with a further service uplift later in the month. It anticipates that as movement restrictions in England are relaxed, demand for travel will increase.

‘National coach network’ requirements discussed with DfT, says NatEx

National Express UK Coach Managing Director Chris Hardy says that all such decisions are made in consultation with DfT “regarding the requirement for a national coach network to keep the country moving safely.” DfT’s ongoing refusal to accept coach travel as essential is a major point of contention for the wider industry.

A National Express spokesperson has clarified that no subsidy will be provided towards additional service provision in December. The company is liaising with DfT is “to ensure that we are appropriately supporting the government response to coronavirus COVID-19.”

Others contribute to coach travel provision in December

Meanwhile, Transport2 is making available vehicles, including coaches and minibuses, to assist with homeward travel for students between 3-9 December. They will come from the company’s over 400 partner operators. All necessary precautions will be in place, Transport2 says. Conveying international students to airports is part of that work.

Also helping international students return home will be Oxford Bus Company (OBC). Its Airline coach service will be return to Gatwick from 28 November. Also, the number of departures to Heathrow will be increased. OBC says it has worked with Oxford University and Oxford Brookes to identify times of high student demand as part of its planning process.