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Transport User Voice – April 2019 – Coach industry can do more to attract new passengers

Getting to and from the airport. Is coach an option?   

 A third of people believe coaches are often uncomfortable, dirty or old and more than half think they are infrequent and often delayed by traffic or roadworks. 

The findings come from new research launched in partnership with Heathrow Airport and the Department for Transport. Getting to and from the airport – is coach an option? looks at why people do and don’t choose coach – in general and more specifically for journeys to airports. 

At an event near Heathrow Airport, Transport Focus gathered the transport industry together to discuss the research and how to promote action to improve future coach travel. Transport Focus’s five-point plan calls for Government, industry and trade bodies to work to improve the public’s perception of travel by coach and to increase its usage. 

The factors of needing to be on time, carrying luggage, an infrequent journey and sharing the cost all make travel by car a sensible choice for many. But this pattern of choice is becoming less practical and is broadly unsustainable – action to curb congestion and air pollution are just two key imperatives.  

Transport Focus’s research found those who choose coach consider it a sensible, savvy, value for money option. Encouragingly, this research highlights that people trying coach for the first time generally have a positive experience that is better than expected. Travelling by coach is felt to be a low-cost, good value option that is cheaper than rail or taxi. 

This research also confirmed that far too many people still don’t think about coach as an option. Coach travel still has a stigma…. “coach is for other people, students and young people, the old…and not for someone like me” said one person in our research. Clearly, there is an opportunity for the coach sector to pursue more concerted marketing. More attention can also be paid to coaches by airports themselves and by Highways England. 

Convincing passengers to ‘take a chance’ on coach travel will be challenging. Passengers may benefit from hearing they can reach their destination cheaply, reliably and peacefully by coach. First-time coach users are frequently struck by how pleasant and easy coach travel is. So, the main challenge is to get nonusers onto the coach for the first time. This experience may well be enough to entice passengers back for further trips. There is a great deal of myth-busting to be done around coach travel.  

Transport Focus will continue to share the results and work with the transport industry to make it a more attractive option. Persuading more people to go to an airport by public transport will require a joined-up approach from airports and transport operators. 

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