National treasure, National Express celebrates 40 years

Thu.20.Sep.2012 BST

Many of us have fond memories of taking a National Express coach as an excited child on a trip to the seaside, a student to our first day at Uni, as proud grandparents to visit our grandchildren for the first time, or an overnighter to meet the love of our life, some of us even met the love of our life while sitting next to them on a long coach trip!

And now this British institution, having carried generations of Brits the length and breadth of the country for holidays, day trips and visits to family and friends is celebrating 40 years of service to the British public.

The ‘National’ coach service was launched in 1972 with around 300 coaches in operation across the UK, and more than 13 million passenger journeys taken. But more than half of the network only operated on weekends and almost a quarter were only seasonal.

The most popular destinations back in the early 70s were London, Blackpool and Bournemouth and you could buy a tea and sandwich from the on board hostess. But coaches back then were uncomfortable for long distances and lack of climate control meant it could be very hot or extremely cold. Many of us will also remember having to hang on to the nearest town or village as there were no toilets on board!

Not that we cared – millions of us relied on the National Express to get us around the nation and these journeys were much loved and looked forward to by British holidaymakers and day trippers alike.

Now, 40 years on, National Express coaches have travelled over 2 billion miles and despite improved train networks and domestic flights, us Brits still love a good coach trip, in fact we make more in 2012 than we did in 1972, with 17 million journeys now made every year.

London and Bournemouth are still two of the most popular destinations, but Bristol and Birmingham have dislodged Blackpool and Great Yarmouth from the top four. While back in ‘72 customers bought their tickets at bus stations, now half of sales are online, prices are still low though with fares starting from £4.

So as we celebrate 40 years of National Express, what are you memories of the iconic coach service?

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