Eurolines (UK) has been wound up, and NatEx has forged new European links with French and Spanish companies
The change comes on the back of Eurolines (UK) Ltd announcing in its 2016 returns, filed in October 2017, that it would cease trading in December 2017. NatEx subsidiary Eurolines (UK) had a disastrous 2016, reporting a £566,000 loss with revenues plummeting almost 50% from £9.12m to £6.26m. In 2015, profit was £1.02m.
The problems in 2016 began with the Paris terrorist attacks, which hit all travel into the city. Eurolines (UK) saw passenger numbers crash by 25% on one of its most profitable routes. Its problems were compounded by competition, chiefly from Flixbus, which began operating from the UK in March 2016, and bought Megabus’ Anglo-European services from Stagecoach in July.
The then Managing Director, John Gilbert, resigned amicably from Eurolines (UK) at the end of 2016, while current National Express UK Coaches MD, Chris Hardy, joined the board 12 days later, together with NatEx and Airlinks Director Edward Rickard. The company employed just ten people, including the directors.
The split with Eurolines network – which has 28 member companies – at the end of 2017 came without fanfare, NatEx deciding not to tell the press unless asked the specific question. One transport pundit suggests this may have been because the deal with OUIBUS and ALSA had not been formalised.
In the statement from its press office, issued in December in response to queries, National Express Coaches said: “Eurolines has been a well-established brand in Europe, and part of the National Express network, for many years. However, we have taken the decision to resign from the Eurolines Organisation and its partners, as we believe there is a greater opportunity for our business outside of this partnership.” In response to B&CB enquiries it said: “We have nothing to add to this.”
ALSA, which NatEx took over in 2005, is a much bigger concern, with €731.2m (£638.7m) turnover and almost 3,000 coaches, serving Spain, Italy, France Germany and even Morocco. OUIBUS is owned by SNCF, the French state rail company, which launched its services as iDBUS in 2012, with routes closely following Eurolines’ high-volume services. It was rebranded OUIBUS in 2015.
Unlike ALSA and OUIBUS, Eurolines Organisation does not own its vehicles but contracts operators for its services. OUIBUS owns around 50 vehicles, and contracts operator Sarfa for some cross-border Spanish routes.
The Eurolines London-Paris route continues to be operated by Transdev, one of the organisation’s French partners.