Many transport companies in the UK are scrapping or slashing their schedules in light of the third national lockdown. Among them is leading coach operator National Express, which is suspending its network of coach services from midnight on Sunday 10 January. So, what does this mean for people who still need to travel for essential reasons? What are the alternatives? We take a look.
Why is National Express suspending its services?
The company says that tighter Covid restrictions and falling passenger numbers have prompted the decision to suspend services. However, all journeys before Monday 11 January will be completed to ensure that passengers making essential journeys are not left stranded.
Those whose travel bookings have been cancelled will be contacted and offered a free amendment or a refund. The company says that it hopes to resume services by early March.
It’s not just National Express that is suspending coach services. Megabus has also said that it is ceasing its service after Sunday 10 January.
What are the current rules on travel?
Under current lockdown rules, all non-essential travel is banned. You can only leave home or travel for essential reasons, including to:
- Work, when you cannot do so from home
- Access education and meet caring responsibilities
- Visit a hospital, see a doctor or attend a medical appointment
- Shop for essential goods and use essential services
- Seek veterinary services
What are the alternatives for essential travel right now?
National Express might have suspended its services, but there are other options available to help you get to your destination.
Despite the fact that some open access train operators such as Grand Central and Hull Trains are suspending their services, National Rail is still operating. Up-to-date details about the services that are running can be found on the National Rail website.
Although there are plans to slash services by about half in the near future, this should not be a cause for concern. Given that most people are now working from home, the demand will be lower. The remaining services are likely to be enough to accommodate all those travelling for essential reasons.
While most airlines have reduced domestic services and cancelled holiday-related bookings, some will continue running a small number of domestic routes to cater for those who need to travel for essential reasons.
Low-cost carrier EasyJet has announced that it will continue to operate between some cities in the UK.
British Airways has indicated the same. A spokesman for the company said that their focus is on “keeping crucial air links open – transporting vital goods and ensuring people who are permitted to travel can continue to do so safely”.
If you need to make an essential journey, the best thing you can do is to go to the airline’s website or contact them directly for information on available flights.
Taxi or private car hire
Taxi and private car hire businesses can continue to operate during lockdown. They are definitely options worth considering. They could prove to be safer than all other options as they involve coming int contact with the smallest possible number of people.
If you travel using a taxi or a privately hired car, you’re expected to follow both the advice of the driver, who may have put additional measures in place, and the government’s Covid guidelines that include:
- Wearing a face covering and being wary of the surfaces you touch
- Social distancing where possible (e.g. sitting in the back left-hand seat of a taxi if travelling alone)
- Using contactless payment where possible or paying online in advance
- Sanitising your hands or washing them for at least 20 seconds after finishing the journey
The suspension of National Express’ coach services is not a surprising result of the new lockdown. The good news is that if you still need to travel for essential reasons, there are alternatives to get you where you need to be.
Whichever option you choose, don’t forget to stay safe and always follow the rules.
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