history and description of British bus transport
Travel topics > Transportation > Bus travel > Bus travel in the United Kingdom

Bus travel in the United Kingdom can be complex at times, but it can also be rewarding, fun and easy most of the time. The UK is covered by a wide bus network and every town and city has wide bus connections. Deep rural villages are less well served but do have some form of bus services.

Newer buses such as these contain contactless payment, leather seats and announcements

Long distance services edit

These are operated by 5 main companies; Megabus, National Express (often abbreviated to NX) and Flixbus, mainly in England and Wales; Scottish Citylink in Scotland; Ulsterbus in Northern Ireland. These buses take reservations, have long stays at coach stations, and often have on board toilets.

There are in addition smaller operators that run specific routes.

Local services edit

A rural bus on the Orkney Islands.

Local buses are run by many companies, including Stagecoach Arriva Bus and First Group. Smaller operators include National Express in the West Midlands, and Go Ahead in the North-East.

Local buses don't take reservations. The exception is a very few rural services where you need to phone the operator a few hours in advance to ensure that the bus actually runs.

With the exception of some areas such as London, you can buy a ticket from the driver when you board the bus. Traditionally this has been a cash only transaction with exact fare being preferred (or required), but since the late 2010s many buses accept contactless cards (but don't provide for entering a pin). Most operators offer daily and weekly passes which can give a significant saving if you travel regularly. Always show your ticket or pass when boarding, or if requested during the journey.

When you almost reach your destination, ring the bell (typically by pressing one of the red buttons near your seat), and then carefully make your way to door ready for the bus to arrive at the stop. Some buses are double deckers; sometimes the driver instructs people to sit upstairs if downstairs is full. On some city services there is a separate exit door in the middle of the bus.

In some metropolitan areas, such as London there is a Night Bus network, which runs bus services beyond the hours of the "daytime" service. 'Night' Routes may be modified, or limited to significant trunk service, with minor stops completely omitted. Night buses may charge higher fares.

By contrast some bus services in rural areas can be daytime only, and may cease running earlier than might be expected.

Bus timetables are often significantly altered at weekends. Usually this means less buses on Saturdays and even fewer (or no) buses on Sundays, but some tourist areas may have extra buses at weekends.

There is no 'national' timetable of local services as such, although online journey planners such as Traveline can help plan a route.

The actual buses edit

Many buses in the United Kingdom are from the Alexander Dennis ‘enviro’ family. These were made in the mid to late 2000s and have reasonably padded seating although some (like stagecoaches ‘gold’) have leather seats.

Some older ones survive, such as the Dennis Darts and ALX 400s. These have worn-out seats and are often used on primary routes, but they’re nice-ish in winter.

Newer buses are ‘MMC’ models, and they are often used by deluxe brands (eg; stagecoach gold and NX west midlands platinum).

Vehicles used by long distance coach operators may have seat belts provided, if they exist please use them.

Many local buses have ‘metro’ newspapers and medium luggage space. When the bus is less busy, you can use the seat next to you to store it, but please put it on your lap when it’s busy as people may get angry if you don’t.

Some routes have variations to their numbers (12/12A) these have small deviations from each other, but it's not something you usually need to worry about. Routes can also have an 'X' variation (12 via shopping centre 12X via A45) and these take more direct routes, and may not stop at all the stops that they pass.

Most buses in the United Kingdom are ‘low floor’, and that means that a disabled person should be able to get on them easily.

See also edit

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