National Express university services

National Express intends to capitalise on the government’s planned university exodus next month by providing additional coach services to help students to get home. The operation will take place over seven days between 3-9 December. It will involve extra capacity on existing routes and the provision of further dedicated vehicles.

National Express and its sister company National Express Transport Solutions are working with other coach operators that will see the provision of “nationwide COVID-secure and efficient travel” during the week-long window. Over 1m students are expected to return home over that period, which National Express says will pose “a serious logistical challenge” to universities.

It adds that there is potential to muster hundreds of vehicles and drivers for the operation. National Express will organise the booking and safe movement of students in line with the staggered departure dates set by universities. A ‘touchless travel’ policy will be in force, with mobile ticketing alongside real time passenger volume monitoring and management, live vehicle tracking and contact tracing.

On the operators that will be used to provide resources, a National Express spokesperson told routeone that it will first work with its existing partners. If additional capacity beyond what they can provide is required, it will then look to its wider list of approved companies. “But we are always interested to speak to operators who may be able to work with us,” the spokesperson adds.

All the coaches used will have various COVID-safe measures in place. Those will include enhanced cleaning, reduced capacity, the wearing of face coverings, temperature screening and additional air-conditioning filters.

National Express UK Coach Managing Director Chris Hardy says: “Students already know us and trust us to get them to and from university safely. We’re ready to work with universities and our teams of local operators up and down the country to help coordinate this safely at such an important time.”