As National Express’ 22-coach A1 service takes off from the terminal, Arriva circumvents pickup restrictions, while easyBus diverts existing minibus service
Road passenger transport competition is hotting up on the Central London to Luton Airport corridor, with National Express, Arriva and easyBus going head to head.
The news comes in the same week Nat Ex began its seven-year agreement with London Luton Airport to operate on the route. The Nat Ex deal has controversially seen Arriva prevented from running its high-profile Green Line 757 coaches from outside the the airport terminal. However, Arriva has not given up the ghost.
From an operating centre at the south end of the long stay car park, Nat Ex is itself running a 22-strong fleet of Caetano Levante coaches. Starting last Wednesday (May 1), Nat Ex journeys are scheduled to depart every 10 minutes, reducing to half-hourly at certain times, with 150 trips travelling to and from Victoria Coach Station each day.
Tom Stables, Managing Director UK Coach said: “I’d like to thank the efforts of our staff and drivers for ensuring the A1, a flagship service that underlines our position as the leader in affordable airport travel, got off to a fantastic start.”
Last week, Arriva said it would not withdraw its 757. In lieu of the airport, the long-established service has continued, but serves the site of Airport Carparkz (sic) on Eaton Green Road, a mile or so from the terminal. From there shuttle buses take passengers to the terminal.
Linsey Frostick of Arriva the Shires told CBW the Airport Carparkz shuttle service is now being operated by Arriva under contract and that it has been upgraded from minibuses to use “accessible buses”. A pair of Plaxton Primos, which it is understood were previously run by TGM, registered ‘LF08DZW/X’ have been allocated to the service, and sport ‘Travel FREE on this bus’ branding.
Contrary to speculation, Arriva said the only staff to have lost their jobs are those who sold tickets at the airport – all drivers and booking & despatch staff at Bullied Way Coach Station inVictoriahave been retained.
A further interesting twist is that from the same date, easysBus has diverted its existing minibus service from the airport to Earls Court to run to Baker Street. The low-cost operator previously enjoyed a tie-up with Arriva on the 757, which saw easyBus ticket holders carried on the Green Line service.
Asked by CBW how it stands against the fact it appears to be permitting easyBus to operate in competition with National Express while at the same time refusing Arriva to do so, a spokeswoman for London Luton Airport replied: “Following a competitive tender process for the London Luton to London Victoria route National Express began operating the service from May 1, 2013. London Luton Airport is delighted by the new service, which provides 140 services a day to central London, offering passengers faster journey times, more frequent services and more seats available at peak times. Our belief in the new service has been reflected in the reaction of our passengers. We have experienced an overwhelmingly positive response to the new service as passengers enjoy the benefits of great customer service and fantastic facilities on board every coach, including, toilets, free WiFi, power sockets and business-class legroom.
“The new National Express service continues our aim of delivering convenience and great value for passengers, whilst supporting our commitment to increase the number of passengers travelling to and from the Airport on more sustainable modes of transport. The speed, frequency and quality of these new National Express services makes this means of public transport more feasible and attractive than ever before.”
There is speculation in the industry that a legal battle could ensue – although it must be stressed that none of the parties have confirmed this, either publicly or privately. Some readers may draw their own conclusions by the fact the airport has not commented specifically on the points CBW raised with it.