Public express coach services potentially offer a solution to many inter-urban transport problems, providing additional capacity at a comparatively low financial and environmental cost, and deliverable in a much quicker timescale than the alternatives. Nonetheless, while a number of express coach schemes were recommended in the multi-modal studies commissioned in the early 2000s, none of the schemes has been implemented. The paper adopts a sociotechnical transition perspective in examining how the potentially transformative impact of a revitalised role for the coach has failed to overcome the dominant stability of the regimes of the private road and public rail alternatives. The paper examines express coach schemes recommended in the period 1997-2010. To this end the discourse around ‘nascent’ coach policy in the early years of the Labour government at the national and regional levels is analysed, exploring the differing perspectives of decision makers, practitioners, current and potential users, and transport industry interests, notably, the dominant national operator (National Express) and newer entrepreneurial entrants. A negative perception amongst politicians of coach services and how they may be viewed by voters is identified as an influential reason for investment in express coach services having been discounted. From an industry perspective, a business focus on the existing key markets of student and older travellers is observed. The coach sector is also found to suffer from policy laissez-faire (beyond responses to occasional safety ‘crises’), evidenced, inter alia, by the near-absence of national monitoring data and weak inclusion within policy making arenas. Nonetheless, the paper concludes by examining case studies of successful services and possible disruptive innovations in the coach market to re-assert the potential of express coaches, and summarises the conditions under which development of the express coach niche might occur.
Clark, B., & Parkhurst, G. (2015, January). When policy recommendations get lost in translation: An examination of the express coach ‘niche’ as a missed sustainable mobility opportunity in the dominant inter-city travel regime. Paper presented at 47th Universities' Transport Studies Group Conference, London, UK