Coach operator National Express reports 69% surge in passengers between Liverpool, Manchester, Manchester Airport and Leeds amid continuing chaos on the railways. Tony McDonough reports
Fed-up travellers and commuters are swapping the train for the coach when travelling to and from Liverpool to Manchester and across the Pennines.
Coach operator National Express is reporting a 49% surge since May in people using its vehicles to travel between Liverpool, Manchester, Manchester Airport and Leeds. It has increased the number of services from eight to 13 each day to meet the demand.
Between January and August 2023 passenger numbers are up 69%, compared to the same period in 2022. National Express has also invested in increasing its fleet, adding three new vehicles to serve these routes.
In May the Government lost patience with TransPennine Express (TPE) amid strikes and countless delays and cancellations and nationalised the service. It operates out of Liverpool Lime Street to destinations across the north.
Prior to the nationalisation it was the worst performing train operator in the country. According to the Office of Rail and Road the company cancelled almost a quarter of its services between, an average of 37 a day, between January and February.
And the problems on the network continue. In the last few weeks it has announced it will mothball a fleet of 13 almost new trains as part of plans to cut services from December.
It began using its Spanish-built Nova 3 trains in August 2019 but it no longer has enough drivers trained to operate them. TPE claims the move will help deliver improved punctuality and reliability.
More than 16m people travelled on National Express coaches in 2022 – up from more than 10m in 2021. Poor services on the trains and the cost of filling up a car are believed to be the key drivers for this growth.
National Express commercial director John Boughton said: “We’ve all seen the challenges that rail in the North West is having. People deserve a reliable and affordable public transport system so we are stepping up to meet demand.
“2023 has been hugely busy across our Trans Pennine services so far and customers are switching to our coaches because it’s reliable, great value and you’re guaranteed a seat.”