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The man who tries to save the long-distance coach transport in Europe. The Eurolines man Mr John Gilbert

Posted in Industry news

We asked a few questions to John Gilbert, Managing Director of Eurolines UK. Eurolines is Europe’s largest scheduled international coach operator. John is not only responsible for the British branch of Eurolines, he is the president of the whole Eurolines group. That's not all, John works to improve the quality and functionality of the entire European coach transport. He is the originator of many bus transport related initiatives. One of his latest initiatives is to improve access to the main European stations and major interchange hobs for coach operators. In one of his earlier statements John said: „In recent years the quality of coach transport significantly increased, but there is a problem in access to stations. International coach passengers still face problems because local and transport authorities in many major European cities do not provide access to bus terminals”.

My acquaintance with John has started a few years ago with a simple yet funny email. "Is this e-mail address to Mr. John Gilbert still valid?" Then after sending this question, I got a reply in a few minutes. John wrote back: „Would like to see if we can cooperate. Can we speak?” Since then John and his group of co-workers are open for cooperation.

Here are our questions to John:

John, why do you think people often overlook coaches when considering travel options to Europe? Eurolines now offer air conditioning, wifi and drop passengers directly in the city centre – and they are far cheaper than rail or air travel?

My role is to encourage people to try the coach – as the biggest barrier is perception. When people board Eurolines coach services they are surprised by standard of service offered for such a low price.  Our coaches have more leg room than budget airlines, there’s a two suitcase baggage allowance and many service snow offer free wifi. With air, rail and car travel continuing to increase in price we have to communicate clearly the benefits of international coach travel – how else could you get to Europe from just £9?

I’ve noticed many cities in the UK, such as Birmingham and Milton Keynes, have benefitted from brand new coach stations with comfortable new facilities for travellers. Are there any plans to redevelop London Victoria Coach station?

Transport for London is responsible for the maintenance of Victoria Coach Station and Eurolines are one of several coach companies based at the site. Victoria has been the home of coaches in London for over 70 years and offers a wide range of facilities for customers including shops, cafes, waiting areas and excellent links to the Underground.  We work closely with Transport for London to ensure the station provides for the needs of our customers.

Sometimes when I try to book a coach journey in Europe I have to visit a different site, why does this happen?

Eurolines is a partnership between several coach companies across Europe with responsibility for running different routes. Sometimes a customer might need to visit or to compete their booking with the relevant company.
The good news is we have recently launched a website which links all the operators – - and are developing a combined booking system.

John, when did you last travel by Eurolines? What route was that?

The last journey I made was from London to Paris earlier this month. All the Eurolines management team are encouraged to travel by Eurolines whenever they can as well as testing other elements of our service offering such as coach station facilities and the website. It’s only by seeing things as a customer that we truly understand what they experience and can introduce improvements and innovations.

Many European coach services now offer ‘premium’ quality services on selected routes. I’ve noticed Eurolines has introduced some ‘plus’ services, can we expect his to be rolled out across Europe?

Our aim is to ensure everyone who travels with Eurolines receives a high quality product at a low cost price. Whether you board our coach in France, Britain or Belgium you should experience the same standard of comfort and customer care. Over recent years we’ve considerably improved the journey experience such as introducing wifi and priority boarding.

You can travel through the majority of European borders without going through passport control, why checks still apply when entering or leaving the UK by coach?

Everyone arriving into the UK is required to have their passport checked - whether they arrive by coach, rail, air or ferry. We work closely with UK border control and the Port of Dover to ensure checks are conducted efficiently and allow passengers to continue their journey promptly.

Many different nationalities travel by coach and sometimes the driver can find it difficult to converse with them. I’ve noticed there’s a DVD player on most vehicles – could you play a multi language video at the start of the journey?

We recognise that language can sometimes be a barrier and we are working to improve things for our customers. We are currently producing a multi lingual welcome CD which the driver can play alongside literature which explains key points of the journey in several languages.

Do you plan to introduce seat reservations?

We have introduced priority boarding on our London to Paris service.  At just £3 per person it allows you to board the vehicle first and choose your seats. If successful we will start to roll-out to other routes next year.

What novelties or changes can we expect in Eurolines in the near future?

We are continuing to roll out free wifi onto services and also introducing plug sockets to allow people to use laptops and charge their mobile phones.

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