Overview of Bus Providers in the UK
Bus and coach travel in the UK is popular as it is usually very low cost and offers a large number of connections to just about anywhere in the United Kingdom. Coach and bus stations in the UK are very common and can be found even in rural areas and smaller villages as they may provide the only connections to larger urban areas. Regular services between large cities are the most popular, and in some cases can be a great alternative to train travel. Bus travel in the UK does not offer any nationalised bus groups or company, as most bus and coach travel is run by deregulated private companies. As a result, tickets purchased for buses or coaches can rarely be used in conjunction with other transport methods. However, some regional or city companies may offer promotional tickets or tours via come coach and bus companies, so it is always worth investigating further.
The major coach and bus providers in the UK include National Express, Megabus, and Scottish Citylink. There are other popular connection providers which will offer coach services for specific connections only, including the Oxford Tube for buses from Oxford to London or easyBus for connections from Gatwick, Stansted and Luton airports to Central London, and iDBus operating coaches from London to Paris.
Major Bus Providers in the UK
National Express offers services to and from practically all of the major towns and cities across the UK. The company, offering intercity long-distance national coaches, was founded in 1972 and is based out of Birmingham. It is the largest coach company in the United Kingdom, and is owned by the National Express Group, with most of their services being subcontracted to local coach companies throughout Wales, Scotland and England. With buses initially departing primarily out of London Victoria Station, National Express now offers services to over 900 destinations throughout the United Kingdom. Their partner organisation, Eurolines, also operates coaches and connections to destinations in Europe. This includes a frequent service to Amsterdam, as well as city breaks to Paris and areas of northern Spain, and totals to over 600 destinations across the continent, with additional connection coaches also available.
As a low budget travel option, National Express offer a reliable alternative to the British rail system. The air-conditioned coaches used by the company also provide reclining leather seats with seat back tray tables and power outlets, allowing passengers to charge their electronic devices. Toilet facilities are of course also available on all of their buses. Keeping up with modern times, free WiFi is available on all coaches and while on-board catering was phased out in the 1990s, passengers still welcome to bring cold food and drinks on board for the journey.
iDBUS is a bus and coach subsidiary of the SNCF, which is the French state railway. Since 2012, iDBUS has been running international coach services in Europe linking major cities. iDBUS offers popular and modern coach travel options that are fast, efficient, affordable and environmentally-conscious services. iDBUS hubs are currently located at the Lille-Europe, Paris-Bercy and Lyon-Perrache stations. iDBUS runs regular services to and from London and some of the most popular routes serviced include Paris, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, Lille, Brussels and Amsterdam. Within continental Europe, services also are available to various destinations in Germany, Spain and Italy, such as buses from Marseille to Genoa, Milan and Barcelona, and from Paris to Cologne, Aachen and Turin.
iDBUS prides itself on a high quality service across all routes. This includes their current bus fleet which meets the Euro 5 emission standard and are 100% accessible for passengers with limited mobility. Amenities such as WiFi and European 220V electrical sockets are also fitted for each seat (of course UK passengers should note to bring their own plug adapters), and toilet facilities are available on each bus. All the bus drivers or ‘captains’ are bilingual, speaking both English and French for passengers. There are not different classes available with their coach services, however a number of ticket options available includes single tickets, return tickets, group travel tickets and tickets for children. Unlike many other low-cost bus and coach services, iDBUS fares are guaranteed to remain consistent as the bus fills up or as the departure date approaches, offering fair deals and pricing for coach travel that is unbeatable to some of Europe’s most popular cities.
Other Major Providers: Megabus and Scottish Citylink
Renowned as budget coach provider best known for its cheap fares and portly mascot, Megabus has been offering services since 2003. It began operations in the UK but now serves Ireland, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and France as well. Services are also sometimes linked with Megatrain journeys, which is a sister company. Since its founding, Megabus has grown to be one of the biggest coach operators in the UK and Europe and provides connections to over 110 cities with more and more being added all the time. The company's main UK hubs include London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Newcastle, Cardiff, Plymouth, and Oxford.
Scottish Citylink is a major main coach provider in Scotland and also Ireland (where it operates under the name Irish Citylink). Services offered by this company are often major intercity connections, as well as rural and regional services connecting these areas with larger urban centres. The head office for Scottish Citylink is based in Glasgow, which is also one of the most popular destinations on offer from the company.