Victoria Coach Station celebrates 90th birthday

News stories are free to read. Click here for full access to all the features, articles and archive from only £2.99.

On Thursday 10 March, London’s Victoria Coach Station celebrated an impressive 90 years at its current site. Having begun its life in the early 20th Century serving routes between London and Brighton, the station has a rich history and, now managed by Transport for London (TfL), has evolved into Europe’s busiest coach station, facilitating travel between London and destinations across the UK as well abroad.

The birth of Victoria Coach Station dates back to 1919, when travel firm Turnham’s established routes from Victoria to Brighton. The coach lent itself to the new post-war trend for seaside holidays, and by the 1920s new long-distance coach services offered a cheaper alternative to the train for longer journeys. Coaches were initially based in Lupus Street, Pimlico, but by 1931 the operation had outgrown the location. To cope with the increasing demand, a new station, designed by architects Wallis, Gilbert & Partners, was built on the corner of Buckingham Palace Road and Elizabeth Street ready for opening on 10 March 1932. Victoria Coach Station has remained the home of coach travel in London ever since.

The new coach station was built in an art deco style, with capacity for thousands of passengers, and complete with offices, upgraded facilities and a restaurant. It became a hub for long-distance travel, with coaches serving all corners of England and Wales. The arrival of World War II meant a section of the station was requisitioned by the War Office in November 1942. Coach travel post-war was met with high public demand, as petrol for private motorists remained rationed until 1950. This, combined with station upgrades from 1956-1957, made the 1950s a golden age for coach travel.

In 1988, Victoria Coach Station came under the management of TfL’s predecessor London Transport. In 2009, it was the first transport organisation to be awarded the Government’s Customer Service Excellence Standard – which it won again in 2010.

The station remains well-positioned in Westminster, with bus, Tube and national rail services all located a short walk away. Today, 40 coach operators serve the station, including long-standing names such as National Express and megabus along with relative newcomer Flixbus, as well as tour operators and international companies. While many operators stopped or reduced their services during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the station is now returning to its usual busy schedule, with around 1,200 coach movements through the station each day. All coaches which use the Victoria Coach Station are subject to the low emission zone standards.

Liam Wilson, Coach Operations Manager at Victoria Coach Station said: “The whole team is really proud to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Victoria Coach Station. The iconic art-deco Grade II listed station is a central part of Britain’s history of coach travel. The station has grown from just one coach operator serving a single route to 40 coach operators serving hundreds of routes. Just as it was when the station first opened, coach travel has remained an affordable way to visit places further afield. It is great to see the various teams working within Victoria Coach Station to support services return to pre-pandemic levels and the seeing the industry getting back on its feet again.”

Chris Hardy, Managing Director at National Express UK Coach, said: “National Express is also celebrating a major milestone of 50 years on the road this year and Victoria Coach Station has played a big part in our story since day one. Whether it’s to see friends and family, go on holiday, attend events or visit attractions; we connect thousands of people every day and many of those journeys include this iconic building. We’ve both seen a lot of change. Coach travel is more reliable, safer and more comfortable and greener than ever. The thing that has never changed however is our shared commitment to customer service. We’re proud to operate so many of our services to and from Victoria Coach Station and look forward to many more years together.”

From left to right: TfL Commissioner Andy Byford, Customer Assistant Sandra, Director of Buses Louise Cheeseman, and Chief Operating Officer Andy Lord at the celebrations. TfL