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Express coach services were deregulated by the Transport Act 1980 under the Thatcher government five years before the deregulation of local bus services by the Transport Act 1985. This led to a flurry of new coach operators. The largest of these was British Coachways, a consortium of established independents formed in 1980 to compete against National Express on six routes. It was disbanded in 1982. Other operators survived longer, but could not shake the dominance of National Express.An exception was the Oxford to London coach route, where Stagecoach Oxfordshire and the Oxford Bus Company) continue to compete fiercely.
National Express was sold to its management in 1988, and floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1992. In 1985, Scottish Citylink was formed to run coach services to and within Scotland – as a franchise operation, like National Express. It too was sold to its management in 1990, but in 1993 it was sold to National Express. In 1997, the Competition Commission ordered National Express to sell Scottish Citylink, following the award of the ScotRail franchise to National Express.In 1998 Scottish Citylink was sold to ComfortDelGro Corporation.
The first Coachway interchange (Milton Keynes Coachway) was opened in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Coachways are coach interchanges built close to motorway/trunk road junctions which link to local transport, as distinct from interchanges in the middle of towns.
Speed limiters were introduced in coaches in 1988. These were initially set at 70 mph, but reduced to 65 mph in 1994.In 1993 ten people died in a coach crash on the M2 motorway, provoking calls to make the it compulsory to wear a seat belt.In 2006 a regulation was passed to require all passengers over the age of 3 years to wear a seat belt if one is available. Previous legislation had required the provision of seat belts in all new coaches.
In 2003, Stagecoach started its Megabus operation in England and Scotland. This brought back national competition, and fares started to fall.
In Scotland, competition between Megabus and Scottish Citylink drove Stagecoach to a joint venture with ComfortDelGro in 2005 to operate both companies’ coach services. The Competition Commission ruled in 2006 that the joint venture reduced competition, and in February 2008 Stagecoach announced the sale of some services, operating under the Saltire Cross brand, to Park’s Motor Group.
Receipts for long-distance coach travel in 1996/1997 were £1.4 billion (2008 prices) rising to nearly £1.8 billion in 2004/2005 (also 2008 prices). Since 2005 statistics are no longer collected for UK non-local bus services. Unlike the UK rail market, which has seen massive growth since 1996, long-distance coach travel has continued to decline (from a low base). Vehicles travelled 1.6 billion km in 1996/1997, falling slightly to 1.5 billion km in 2007/2008.
From 1 January 2008 express coaches were banned from using the third lane of motorways by Section 4 of The Motorways Traffic (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2004.In 2008 National Express announced that passenger numbers had grown by 2% in the previous year.
In 2009 FirstGroup entered the market with Greyhound UK, competing with National Express and Megabus.The Birmingham Coach Station opened after a major rebuild. Reconstruction of the Milton Keynes Coachway started (opening Spring 2010).
In September 2010 First Group announced that they would be expanding the Greyhound UK service significantly.
In October 2010, Philip Hammond, the transport minister, announced that the M4 bus lane would be scrapped, saying: “Nothing is more symbolic of Labour’s war on the motorist. The Confederation of Passenger Transport said that the decision, which was supported by all the main motoring organisations, had “come out of the blue” and that “high occupancy vehicle lanes for buses and coaches can be key tools in persuading people out of their cars and onto public transport.
The organisers of the 2012 Summer Olympics aimed to get 100% of people to the venues by public transport or other non-car modes (cycling/walking) with around 10 per cent of spectators arriving by bus and coach.In January 2010 the South East England regional transport board criticised the current proposals[which?] for not providing plans for a credible long term coach network: “The ODA has been working on an extensive network of coach services… [but] the lack of reference to this work [in the plan] is both intriguing and at the same time concerning.
The last Greyhound service ceased in December 2015