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National Express

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National Express

"National Express" redirects here. For their coach subsidiary, see National Express Coaches. For the song, see National Express (song).
National Express Group
Public ()
Industry Public transport
Founded 1972: National Express branding
1992: National Express Group plc
Headquarters Birmingham, United Kingdom
Area served United Kingdom, Europe & North America
Key people John Armitt (Chairman)
Dean Finch (CEO)
Products Bus, coach, train & tram services
Revenue £1,831.2 million (2012)[1]
Operating income £211.9 million (2012)[1]
Net income £61.3 million (2012)[1]
Employees 40,000 (2010)[2]
Website North America Operations

National Express Group plc[3] () is a multinational public transport company headquartered in Birmingham that operates bus, coach, train and tram services in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Spain, Portugal and Morocco and long-distance coach services across Europe. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.


In 1972 the state owned National Bus Company decided to bring together the scheduled coach services operated by its bus operating companies under one brand. Initially branded as National, the National Express brand was first used in 1974.[4][5] The National Express network was largely a branding exercise, with services continuing to be operated by the individual companies.

With the privatisation of the National Bus Company in the 1980s, National Express was subject to a management buyout in March 1988. The management team began to diversify, and acquired the bus company Crosville Wales in 1989[6] but its financial performance began to deteriorate from early 1990. A new management team took over the company in July 1991, with the backing of development and venture capital investors. The new team refocused the group on its core activities and sold Crosville Wales to British Bus.[7] In October 1991 it purchased Speedlink, an operator of coach services between Gatwick and Heathrow Airports.[5] In December 1992 National Express Group plc was floated on the London Stock Exchange.[4] The prospectus stated the objectives of the company were to refocus and improve the profitability of the core coach business, to develop new products and services within its existing operations, and to acquire new businesses in the passenger transport market.

Acquisitions & Disposals

In 1993 Scottish Citylink, Eurolines and East Midlands Airport were acquired.[8][9] In April 1995 National Express purchased [[National Express West Midlands|West Midlands Travel, the formerly council owned bus network of Birmingham and the West Midlands[4] and rebranded it Travel West Midlands in September 1996. This began the brand family of Travel ... local bus operations. Bournemouth Airport was acquired in April 1995.[10]

In April 1996 National Express commenced operating its first UK rail franchises, Gatwick Express and Midland Mainline. Other franchises won in 1997 were Silverlink, Central Trains and ScotRail. To comply with a Competition Commission ruling on it winning the ScotRail franchise, National Express sold the Scottish Citylink operation to Metroline in August 1998.[11][12]

In February 1997 Taybus Public Transport was acquired and rebranded Travel Dundee.[13]

In September 1998 Crabtree-Harmon, the seventh largest student transportation bus company in the United States was acquired, with 82 school bus contracts mainly in Missouri, but also in other Midwest states including Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Utah. In February 1999 Robinson Bus Service was purchased followed in August 1999 by Durham Transportation. These acquisitions placed National Express as one of the top three United States school bus operators.[14]

In May 1999 National Express purchased Australia's largest private bus operator, National Bus Company.[15] National Bus Company had bus operations in Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth, and also held a 57% shareholding in Westbus, Sydney's largest bus operator. Westbus also had a London coach operation.[16] In August 1999 National Express won the M>Train, M>Tram and V/Line Passenger rail franchises in the Australian state of Victoria.[17][18]

In July 2000 Prism Rail was purchased adding the c2c, Wales & Borders, Wessex Trains and West Anglia Great Northern franchises to National Express' portfolio.[19][20][21]

In December 2002 National Express handed in its Victorian rail franchises having been unable to renegotiate financial terms with the State Government.[22][23]

In February 2004 the London bus operations of Connex were purchased and rebranded Travel London.[24] In April 2004 National Express East Anglia commenced operating the Greater Anglia Rail Franchise.[25] In September 2004 National Express sold its Melbourne bus operations to Ventura Bus Lines, and Brisbane and Perth bus operations to Connex.[26][27] After being placed in administration in January 2005, Westbus was sold to ComfortDelGro Cabcharge in August 2005.[28][29]

In June 2005 the London bus arm of Tellings-Golden Miller was purchased and also rebranded Travel London.[30] In October 2005 National Express agreed to buy most of operations of privately owned Spanish transport operator ALSA, which operates bus and coach services in Spain, Portugal and Morocco, and long-distance coach services to other parts of Europe. Alsa's operations in South America and China were retained by the previous owners.[31]

In April 2007 National Express acquired Continental Auto, the second largest bus and coach operator in Spain.[32]

In November 2007 South East England coach operator The Kings Ferry was purchased[33] and an airport to hotel shuttle service in London branded Dot2Dot was launched.[34] It was not successful and ceased in November 2008.[35]

In November 2007 National Express announced plans to re-brand all of their operations under a new unified National Express identity.[36] It was intended to achieve greater recognition for all the group companies, to coincide with recent acquisitions and after current rail operations had improved in reliability to warrant association with the established express coach image. It coincided with the appointment of a group director for all UK operations and relocation of the head office from London to Birmingham, bringing all operations under a single strategic management structure. Day to day management remains within individual companies.[37]

In December 2007 National Express East Coast commenced operating the InterCity East Coast franchise.[38] In May 2009 National Express sold Travel London to Abellio.[39]

In February 2013 National Express was awarded two regional rail contracts in Germany by the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr authority to commence in December 2015.[40][41]

Default on East Coast rail franchise

On 1 July 2009, the Department for Transport announced that it would take the National Express East Coast franchise into public ownership at the end of the year after National Express announced it would not invest any further funds into the franchise, effectively declaring it planned on defaulting.[42] Further controversy ensued when, on 27 July 2009, the Commons Transport Committee said that ministers should consider operating the East Coast Main Line as a public railway after National Express announced they would walk away.[43] Directly Operated Railways took over the East Coast franchise on 14 November 2009.[44] Also in November 2009 the government announced that National Express East Anglia would not be granted a three-year extension that it had otherwise qualified for, because of the East Coast default.[45]

Operational safety concerns

In July 2009, a junior transport minister, the Gillingham MP Paul Clark, spelt out a series of concerns to National Express in a letter following a meeting with an employee of National Express East Coast who lives in his constituency. The worker claimed that due to reduced maintenance checks, some trains were in use with defective brakes, an allegation strongly denied by the company, which said it would "never compromise on safety". He wrote: "As a result of reduced maintenance checks, 'some long-haul sets [trains] are in use with brake defects'. Increasing cuts in staff combined with an increasing pressure to ensure that trains run safely has resulted in fears among staff that a major accident is 'just around the corner'." Passengers, he added, "have been 'poisoned' as a result of coffee machines not being cleaned correctly, with cleaning fluids left in situ". The minister said he was "shocked and appalled at the information with which I've been provided. You will understand that these allegations are exceptionally serious".[46]

Offers for the company

With the company's finances under stress largely as a result of having overbid for the National Express East Coast rail franchise, National Express became a takeover target in 2009. In June 2009 a takeover offer from fellow transport operator FirstGroup was rejected.[47] On 3 September 2009 National Express' largest shareholder, Spain's Cosmen family with 18.5%, and CVC Capital Partners made a takeover offer of £765 million for the company.[48][49] The Takeover Panel set a deadline of 11 September 2009 for all prospective bids.[50]

National Express agreed to allow the Cosmen/CVC consortium to undertake due diligence in September 2009.[51] The Cosmen/CVC consortium had reached an agreement to sell the UK bus and rail operations to Stagegroup if its offer was successful.[52] The deadline for offers was subsequently extended to 16 October 2009.[53]

On 16 October 2009 the Cosmen/CVC consortium withdrew their offer.[54][55] with Stagecoach submitting a new all-share bid later the same day.[56][57] This too did not proceed and in November 2009 National Express announced it would raise the necessary capital through a share issue.[58]


National Express' operations are summarised below:[59]

UK & Europe

Bus & coach operations

The bus and coach services operated by the group are:

Bus operations
Coach operations
  • Eurolines (express coach services between the UK and other European countries)
  • National Express Coaches (long distance express and airport coach services in the UK)
  • The Kings Ferry (commuter services and private coach hire)
  • ALSA including Continental-Auto (coach services in Spain and Western Europe)
  • City2City (express coach services in Germany)

Railway & tram operations

The railway and tram services operated by the group are:

Railway operations
  • c2c (passenger rail operation in the UK)
  • Maintrain (train maintenance in the UK)
  • National Express have been shortlisted to bid for the Essex Thameside, Crossrail and ScotRail franchises
  • Starting in December 2015, National Express will operate the Rhein-Münsterland-Express (RE7) from Rheine to Krefeld and the Rhein-Wupper-Bahn (RB48) from Wuppertal-Oberbarmen to Bonn-Mehlem in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.[60]
Tram operations

USA & Canada

Bus & coach operations

Bus operations

Former operations

UK & Europe

Bus & coach operations

Bus operations

In May 2009 National Express sold some of their bus operations to Abellio:

Coach operations

Railway & Tram operations

Railway operations

Rail franchises lost in refranchising were:

London & Continental Railways

National Express had a 17.5% shareholding in London & Continental Railways from its formation in September 1994 until it was nationalised by the UK Government in 2009. London & Continental Railways was responsible for building the High Speed 1 project. National Express also held a 40% stake in the Inter-Capital and Regional Rail consortium which held the management contract for the UK arm of the Eurostar operation, London & Continental Railway's subsidiary Eurostar International Limited from 1998 to 2010.[61][62]


In the 1990s National Express moved into the privatisation of airports, purchasing East Midlands Airport, Bournemouth Airport, and Humberside Airport. In a move to concentrate on bus and rail provision, Humberside was sold to Manchester Airports Group in 1999 followed by Bournemouth and East Midlands in February 2001.[63][64]

Until November 2007 the group also operated Stewart International Airport in New Windsor, New York. However, the lease was sold to the public Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.[65]

Australian operations

Bus & coach operations

Bus operations

Australian bus companies previously operated by the group include:

Railway & tram operations

Railway operations

In 1999 the Group gained the Australian franchises M>Train, M>Tram and V/Line Passenger after privatisation by the Government of Victoria. After incurring large losses and being unable to renegotiate the franchise contracts, the operations were handed back to the State Government. M>Train was relet to Connex and M>Tram to KDR Melbourne, V/Line remained with the government.

USA & Canada

Bus & coach operations

Bus operations

See also


External links

  • National Express Group
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