Every time I visit England I usually travel from one of the airports to my destination by National Express Coach. I've always used this method of transport as I find it easy to organise and pay online without any problems.
I generally book two or three months ahead through their website. It's easy enough - enter journey details; where you are travelling from and where to, state a time and whether you wish to purchase a single or return ticket. Once you have filled all the necessary information in you then make a payment by keying in your credit card details. Once confirmed an eticket will be sent to your email address which you print out to give to the friendly driver.
Over the years I can't grumble about any of my journeys or drivers. I have found National Express Coaches time management impeccable, having never had to wait for a coach. Some drivers have been very chatty, not bothered about looking at my ticket and been helpful by placing my rucksack in the luggage hold of the coach. Others have been quiet, scrutinised my ticket and made me handle my own luggage. I don't have a problem with either of these types of drivers.
Now, you are thinking is this the end of the review. No, it isn't because on the last journey I made from Edinburgh to Newcastle in June, I met a driver who didn't fit into either of these categories. God knows where National Express found this one from because he was really something else and I hope our paths never meet again.
Actually, at the beginning of the journey he was the co-driver, the one dishing out all the orders. I could see when he was being officious over luggage concerns and generally grumpy with everyone that he was going to be a pain but I was tired and thought once I sat back in my seat, I would drop off to sleep and forget about him. It wasn't that easy. He had a sharp, penetrating voice, devoid of humour or charm. Not only was he very strict about rules laid down in the handbook regarding seat belts, no smoking or drinking on the coach which I agree with, he went on and on about keeping the toilet clean and if passengers were going to eat anything, could they make sure they didn't leave any rubbish as he didn't want to clean up after anyone. Fair enough. We all heard the first time but he did get his needle stuck on several occasions.
Now, this journey from Edinburgh to Newcastle goes the scenic route covering a lot of high ground, featuring deep, dark rugged hills and green dales with sheep roaming about. I missed some of the beauty spots because I did nod off but then I was abruptly awoken by a thud and the front wheel of the coach hitting a curb. Nothing too serious but obviously the driver who wasn't the officious one didn't know how to tuck his corners in and was wild on the steering, I could see a slight wave of panic among the passengers but at this stage all was as well as could be expected. My husband commented about the driving and said that he was driving too fast for the tight bends and narrow roads.
Our driver carried on at this frantic pace and the journey felt more like a trip across the North Sea in a storm than crossing the Scottish lowlands on a summer's day. After 30 minutes on the road the mad steering had started to induce travel sickness among the passengers, first starting with two children who were sat behind me. Their mother quietly walked to the front of the bus to ask the co-driver for black bags. He gave her 2 and then said that he couldn't spare any more in case anyone else was sick. Within minutes other people started to walk to the back of the coach to the loo. We were very close to the back and I was prepared to hold my nose. One old chap looked very white and instead of standing in the loo out of the way he kept walking up and down, passing my husband with a ghostly image. My husband kept ducking; he was worried in case something nasty came his way and hit him in the face. While all this was going on the driver was still behaving like he was in a rally and the co-driver was ranting and raving at the passengers to stay in their seats. The old boy couldn't stay still and started swearing at the driver to stop the coach. Eventually he did, at Galashiels.
At this stage of the journey, the lady with the two children got off and so did the sickly gent but not to leave the coach, to have words with the co-driver. In fact, it was a heated argument which ended up by both people coming back on the coach and the old man being humiliated by the words of the irate co-driver who became the driver in charge. There was a threat of leaving him behind if he carried on complaining and he said he wasn't going to be sworn at.
What a carry on! Terrible driving, not enough sick bags, air conditioning wasn't turned on until it was too late and half the passengers were overheated and feeling queasy. I have travelled on National Coaches for over 30 years and I've never seen anything like that before. To top all this, we arrived one hour late due to hitting heavy traffic coming into Newcastle.
Actually, I was relieved when the co-driver became the driver. Things calmed down because his driving was much smoother and we weren't being thrown around all over the place plus the driving gave him something to concentrate on and he was silent for the rest of the journey.
The question I ask myself now, is will I use National Express again. Yes, I think so. This experience was rare. I was slightly annoyed at the time but I can look back and see the funny side. On the other hand, the customer care on that occasion was appalling and I didn't understand why the co-driver/driver was behaving so off hand with the passengers. Everybody can have an off day, I guess but I did think this chap was out of order.
Our tickets cost £8.50 each (single) and the journey duration should have been 3 hours 15 minutes but we arrived an hour later.
I didn't make a complaint because I don't generally but I could have done by going on to their website, hitting the Contact Us tab and then clicking on the Make a Complaint tab, on the drop down menu.
I do state that in my experience the above account is very rare but bear in mind that it can happen to anyone and at any time.