New report into why people use coach and how to improve it

Passenger Focus published Coach passenger needs and experiences earlier this year which reported on why people used express coach, what they like about it had how it could be enhanced. Overall express coach was seen very favorable by users, many of whom were unsurprisingly motivated by cheaper fares compared to rail but many also mentioned that other benefits included that they were guaranteed a good quality seat in quiet and stress free environment compared to the train. Many users said that had previously used trains but moved over to coach at the recommendation of friends or by chance. The on-board wi-fi was a big plus for some. Users preferred coach stations to roadside stops saying that roadside stops lacked information, shelter and reassurance and they were worried that the coach might not actually stop for them.


  • Promote coach travel better
  • Improve journey times
  • Improve coach station
  • Better roadside stops with real-time information and shelters
  • More thought about concerns for luggage being lost/stolen
  • One place to compare and book tickets
  • More visible staff and police presence
  • Enhance the onboard experience
  • Improve the complaints process

Modern express coach with onboard wifi

Bristol to London 040 coach service – a success!

A number of my friends have recommended the 040 Coach service from Bristol to London which is operated by National Express. I have been checking times, frequencies and fares to see why.

By car it is 119 miles with a predicted one-way journey time of 2h14m. By train there trains every 30 mins of so and the journey time in 1h 40m. By coach the journey time varies from 2h20m off-peak to 3h peak. There are 28 Bristol-London coach departures per day, the number was increased in 2008 to meet additional demand.

Cost wise the coach is cheapest at with return fares between £17 off-peak and £22 peak. The train varies from £59 return off-peak to £159 peak. The car comes out at £94 return (based on 40p per mile without congestion charge or parking fees) or £24 in fuel at 10p per mile.

So.. traveling in peak times one can save £139 on the return trip by taking an extra 2h40m journey time (round trip). Off-peak one can save £42 on the round trip at a time ‘cost’ of an additional 2 hours. One has to have a ‘time value’ of £52 per hour to justify traveling by train during peak and £21 to justify it off-peak.

In general the train appears to be a ‘luxury purchase’ for most people unless they value their time very highly and can’t be ‘productive’ on the coach. Equally, the car is the least productive option is the car assuming that the driver is not able to do much else in the time other than drive.

Carbon emissions: the coach wins at 10kg, the train comes next at 22kg and the car weighs in at 85kg.source data.

If one considers congestion then the coach is a bonus whether it takes cars of the M4 or passengers from the Great Western, both of which are often running at capacity.

Conclusion. The train is faster and also cheaper and more carbon efficient than the car or the coach. The coach is cheaper than both the train and the car when travelling alone even if one only count the fuel cost and has the best carbon performance. The car is cheapest with more than one person and does not achieve the carbon performance of the train.

It is therefore unfortunate that the current transport minister plans to remove the M4 bus lane which saved 3.5 minutes on the coach time in peak without significant time cost to other road users (according to research by TRL produced in 2002).


The place that has implemented the best system of the sort we are proposing is Bogota in Columbia. The main difference is that this is city based system rather than an inter-city system, but many of the same principles apply.

Here is the Transmilenio system in Bogota:-

And here it is in action:-

There are more details about the Bogota system in this amazing video fromStreetFilms which provides more details of how it works and why buses there travel 3-4 times faster than buses in New York!