National Express coach at Birmingham Coach Station, the company’s headquarters
ParentMobico Group
HeadquartersBirmingham Coach Station
Service areaGreat Britain
Service typeIntercity and InterRegional coach services
Stansted Airport
Heathrow Airport
Leeds Edit this at Wikidata

National Express,[1] also abbreviated NX, is an intercity and inter-regional coach operator providing services throughout Great Britain. It is a subsidiary of the British multinational public transport company Mobico Group. Most services are subcontracted to local coach companies. The company's head office is in offices above Birmingham Coach Station.[2]


Duple Dominant bodied Leyland Tiger in Liverpool in 1982 in the original livery

Pursuant to the Transport Act 1968, the National Bus Company was formed as a holding company for the many state-owned local bus companies. Many of these bus companies also operated coach services and these were initially branded as National. The National Express brand was first used in 1974 although the coach services continued to be operated by the individual companies.[3][4]

Coach services were deregulated under the Transport Act 1980, and buses by the Transport Act 1985. In March 1988 National Express was privatised in a management buyout.[5] In July 1989 the company bought ATL Holdings[6] (with operations in Sheffield) and a 50% share in Yelloway Trathen, which was renamed Trathens Travel Services.[7][8]

In August 1989 the Eurolines services from London to Alicante, Barcelona and Paris were purchased from the tour operator Wallace Arnold, and the express services (with 29 coaches) in Scotland and to London from Stagecoach. These were operated under the Caledonian Express brand.[9]

In June 1991 National Express was sold to the Drawlane Group.[10][11] In December 1992 National Express Group plc was floated on the London Stock Exchange.[3]

In its early years National Express had little competition in the long-distance coach market. A number of operators attempted to compete with the company after deregulation in 1980, the largest being the British Coachways consortium, but most had ceased to compete by the end of the decade.[12] However, in 2003, Stagecoach introduced Megabus, a no-frills service whose £1 fares sparked a price war with National Express in autumn 2004.[13]

The competition intensified in 2007 when Megabus transferred its London terminus from the Green Line Coach Station into the main Victoria Coach Station.[14]

In November 2007 National Express announced plans to re-brand all its operations under a new unified National Express identity.[15]

National network

A national network links more than 550 routes, including many of the UK mainland's cities, with 11,000 cross-country journeys every week.[16]


Plaxton Premiere bodied Volvo B10M at Manchester Airport in April 2003
Stagecoach Yorkshire Plaxton Panther bodied Volvo B12B in the 2003 livery at Southampton in 2008
Selwyns Travel's Plaxton Elite bodied Volvo B9R in Liverpool

National Express operates coach services direct to the terminal for all major UK airports, 24 hours a day, with 1,100 airport services every day, including East Midlands, Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and Stansted. The Airport brand was created in 2003 when the National Express image brand was updated, merging the former Airlink, Flightlink, Jetlink and Speedlink brands.[17]

Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

Following the introduction of guidance from the UK Government on avoiding non-essential travel, services were replaced from 24 March 2020 with a limited network of services for passengers with essential travel needs. However, due to declining passenger numbers as a result of the restrictions, all services were suspended from 6 April 2020.[18] Services restarted nearly three months later on 1 July, on about a quarter of route mileage and with reduced frequencies.[19]

As a result of the discovery of a new, more transmissible variant and the implementation of tighter restrictions prohibiting travel in many areas of the country, services were significantly reduced by the end of December 2020. On the implementation of a third national lockdown in January 2021, services were again suspended from 11 January.[20] Eleven weeks later, limited services again resumed on 29 March.[21]

Franchised operators

The majority of National Express services are contracted on long-term agreements to local coach companies, known as partner operators. As part of the contract, operators are required to use coaches in full National Express livery. Below is a list of partner operators:[22]


National Express tickets are available through a variety of sources. Most tickets are booked on-line through both the company's own website and many third party sites. Telephone bookings are also available as are tickets through the traditional channels tickets of National Express ticket offices at coach stations, third-party agents at bus stations and travel agents. Since 2013, tickets have also been available for purchase from the Post Office.[23]


National Express offers several discounts to customers.


Edwards Coaches Caetano Boa Vista at Bristol bus station

National Express and its franchisees operate a limited number of coach types, primarily standardising on the Caetano Levante body on Mercedes-Benz, Scania and Volvo chassis. The Levante was designed between 2003 and 2005 by Portuguese coachbuilder Salvador Caetano and National Express exclusively for use on the network, equipped with a wheelchair lift at the front entrance door,[27] and could be built on either two or three axles depending on chassis configuration. The most recent tri-axle Levante III was introduced onto the network in July 2018,[28][29] with an updated version named the Levante IIIA introduced from late 2022.[30]

After having initially trialled a Yutong TCe12 on airport service A9 during 2020, National Express is to introduce a Yutong GTe14 tri-axle battery electric coach on a four-week trial operating Stansted Airport services from March 2024.[31] The company also purchased 25 Van Hool Altano TDX21 coaches for services 040 between London and Bristol, and the 540 between London and Manchester via Milton Keynes. These are due to enter service in 2024.[32][33]

National Express also runs ten Caetano Boa Vista bodied Scania K410 double decker coaches on its network, all of which are operated by Edwards Coaches. The first six entered service with National Express mainly for use between London Victoria and Luton Airport in October 2016,[34] with the additional four later purchased by Edwards Coaches during 2018.[35]

National Express had previously standardised on the double-deck variant of the MCW Metroliner for 'Rapide' coach services in 1980s, however by January 2007, the double-decker coach fleet had been reduced to 12 Neoplan Skyliners, all of which were later withdrawn from National Express service following a speeding driver overturning a Skyliner on an M25 motorway sliproad, causing the deaths of three passengers.[36]

On-board services

National Express Rapide coach

In April 2001 National Express phased out its on-board catering service, having already phased out its on-board television service in the 1990s. However, in late 2004 National Express launched NXTV or National Xpress Television. Rather than showing a whole film as on an aircraft, NXTV would instead show various episodes of British television series such as A Touch of Frost, My Family and Top Gear, all of which were commissioned by ITV and the BBC. The service was displayed on small monitors situated above the overhead luggage compartments, powered by a motor to move downwards and upwards while the programming would be played from a DVD drive at the driver's dashboard.[37]

The service was phased out in the summer of 2006, due to a lack of interest in purchasing headphones, available at vending machines in the major stations and also via on-board vendors before a journey. The headphone jack was compatible with any headphone, removing any reason to buy those offered. Also, by the time NXTV was launched, the Apple iPod was already at its height of popularity, diverting interest away from it. Programming was also very limited, with many of the episodes being frequent repeats from terrestrial television. The headphones were later given away for free when the service was about to be ceased. The advertising slogan was "Television shows as you board the coach".[37]

See also


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 232767 National Express Limited
  2. ^ "LSH plays integral role in £15m redevelopment of Birmingham Coach Station". LSH. Archived from the original on 9 October 2011.
  3. ^ a b National Express Group: Our History National Express
  4. ^ National Express Group PLC and Saltire Holdings Ltd Monopolies & Mergers Commission February 1994 page 3
  5. ^ Express sale set for DTp approval Commercial Motor 10 March 1988
  6. ^ Companies House extract company no 2036613 Airlinks The Airport Coach Company Limited formerly Airport Express Trains Limited formerly ATL (Holdings) Limited
  7. ^ Companies House extract company no 1792858 Trathern Travel Services Limited formerly Yellow-Trathern Express Limited
  8. ^ National snaps up ATL Commercial Motor 27 July 1989
  9. ^ National Express grows Commercial Motor 10 August 1989
  10. ^ Companies House extract company no 1946383 Burroughs Hill Limited formerly Drawlane Group Transport plc
  11. ^ Drawlane team snaps up NEG Commercial Motor 4 July 1991
  12. ^ Townsin, Alan (1992). "Coach deregulation arrives". The British Bus Story – The Early '80s: The Die is Cast. The Transport Publishing Company. pp. 22–24. ISBN 978-0-86317-170-3.
  13. ^ "£1 a seat for Stagecoach's Ryanair of the road service". The Guardian. 19 February 2004. Retrieved 7 April 2024.
  14. ^ "London services move coach station". Archived from the original on 15 June 2009. Retrieved 16 October 2009.
  15. ^ New Identity for National Express Group National Express 15 November 2007
  16. ^ "National Express announces expansion of services across UK". Intelligent Transport. 2022. Retrieved 7 April 2024.
  17. ^ "Airbus". Key Buses. 8 July 2023. Retrieved 7 April 2024.
  18. ^ Xie, Qin (2 April 2020). "National Express to suspend all coach services". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  19. ^ Calder, Simon (18 June 2020). "National Express will start running coach services again on 1 July". The Independent. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  20. ^ Wright, Greg (8 January 2021). "National Express to suspend all coach services due to pandemic". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  21. ^ Calder, Simon (25 March 2021). "Coach travel back on in England from Monday". The Independent. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  22. ^ "National Express Coaches". Cheap Tickets. Retrieved 7 April 2024.
  23. ^ "National Express Tickets - Post Office". Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  24. ^ "Student Coach Card". Cranfield Students' Association. Retrieved 7 April 2024.
  25. ^ "Senior Coachcard: National Express". Trafford Directory. Retrieved 7 April 2024.
  26. ^ "National Express Disabled Person Coachcard". Notts Help Yourself. Retrieved 7 April 2024.
  27. ^ Adams-Spink, Geoff (24 November 2005). "Accessible coaches start trials". BBC News. Retrieved 28 February 2024.
  28. ^ "Evolution of the species". routeone. 3 October 2017. Archived from the original on 9 March 2021. Retrieved 28 February 2024.
  29. ^ "First National Express Levante IIIs hit the road". Coach & Bus Week. Peterborough: Emap. 17 July 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2024.
  30. ^ "National Express trials mirrorless coaches". Coach & Bus Week. Peterborough: Emap. 6 December 2022. Retrieved 28 February 2024.
  31. ^ "National Express first to trial Yutong GTe14 battery-electric tri-axle". routeone. 28 February 2024. Retrieved 28 February 2024.
  32. ^ chrispeat (19 March 2024). "FULL COVERAGE: National Express reveals Van Hool Altanos". Bus & Coach Buyer. Retrieved 5 May 2024.
  33. ^ Deakin, Tim (18 March 2024). "Van Hool TDX21 Altano for National Express work makes debut". routeone. Retrieved 5 May 2024.
  34. ^ "National Express dips toe in double-deck coach market". routeone. 26 October 2016. Archived from the original on 29 November 2016. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  35. ^ Welch, Jonathan (18 July 2023). "Express with Edwards". Coach & Bus Week. Peterborough: Emap. Retrieved 28 February 2024.
  36. ^ "Coach death driver pleads guilty". BBC News. 15 October 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2024.
  37. ^ a b Robinson, Peter; Cameron, Harry (2022). National Express The Journey of an Iconic Brand. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 978-1398113626.

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