National Express demand surges during rail strike

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National Express has reported a surge in demand for its coach services between London and destinations on the South Western Railway (SWR) network in December owing to 27 days of industrial action by RMT union members at the train operating company.

National Express has increased capacity on routes to destinations such as Bournemouth, Poole and Southampton. It is using additional coaches in its own livery first and then employing duplicates from its “trusted pool of operators,” the company says in a statement.

Coach passenger bookings between London and towns and cities that are on the SWR network are significantly up on the same period in 2018. Between Bournemouth and London they have already risen by 44%; between Poole and London by 61%; and between Winchester and London by 219%.

As of last week, the operator had seen an overall 44% increase in demand on affected routes. That figure grows to 80% during the weeks closer to Christmas. Passenger numbers on affected services are expected to grow still further, says National Express UK Coach Commercial Director John Boughton.

“We’ve had lots of practice of picking up the pieces when rail lets people down. We already have services in place, so it is a case of increasing capacity to help get people to where they want to be.”

SWR is employing rail replacement bus services on a small number of routes that are affected by the industrial action. Reduced rail services are in place on others. Only one has a normal service.