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General Rant about National Express/Eurolines.


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Advantages: Cheap. How else can you get from London to Hamburg (in order to do the heavy metal mecca that is Wacken Open Air) for £86.00 return.

 

Disadvantages: Read on...

 

So I've got my ticket and I'm at Victoria Coach Station an hour in advance. I queue up and get to the check in desk where a boot-faced woman takes my booking confirmation, grunts, and thrusts a wadge of tickets and a luggage label at me.

 

"Can I borrow a pen to fill out the luggage label?" say I.

 

"No." says she. "Haven't got one."

 

I look around at the office behind her. Surely there's a pen in there somewhere.

 

"I'd have thought there was a pen in that office behind you somewhere. Can't you go and look at all?"

 

She bridles at the thought of having to put in effort and replies, "I'd have thought that people travelling to Hamburg would have packed a pen."

 

I ask her colleague at the next desk if he has a pen. He says yes, but it's currently in use.

 

I look at the empty desk on the other side. There's two ballpoints. "Can I borrow those?"

 

"No."

 

"Why not? Nobody's using them."

 

"Not my counter."

 

"Then you won't mind if I just snag them, will you?" I make to do so.

 

"OI!" shouts boot-faced hellbitch. "Don't just lean over and grab things without asking!"

 

"But they're not in use, and it's not like I'm going to run off with them now is it? This place is crawling with CCTV for a start."

 

"People do."

 

"Do I look like the sort of person who steals biros?"

 

"No, but you can't be too careful."

 

I go to the corner shop along the concourse and borrow a biro off the proprietor. I boom out very loudly how helpful and well equipped he is so that bootwoman can hear it.

 

So with that all done, I queue up and load up my luggage and get on the bus. The bus drivers are a pair of Czechs whose English is all but non-existent. I sit right at the back. The curtains are shut. I can't read my copy of Private Eye or my pair of Xanth novels that I'd brought to avoid insanity from boredom while on this coach trip. I open them. Driver gets well bent out of shape at this and shuts them again. I ask why they need to be shut and he looks at me and bellows, "You from China? Japan? What you say!" and then storms off, a torrent of Czech swearwords under his breath. A bit later I open them again and he threatens to boot me off the bus. I (and several other passengers) make V signs at his back when he leaves.

 

We get to the Eurotunnel check in point. We get let off for tea, coffee, and legstretching. He mumbles something about how long we have before we have to leave again and nobody hears it. Someone asks how long we have as we didn't hear and he shrugs and feigns lack of understanding. In the café a woman gets bumped and spills coffee on her shirt. She asks to get into the luggage hold to grab a change of clothes. He refuses point blank for no apparent reason and feigns inability to understand when she asks why not.

 

An 82 year old chap going to Lucerne by coach describes it as "torture." He says he tried it because it was cheap. He says as soon as he gets to the hotel, he's cashing in his tickets and getting a plane to go back.

 

I change at Brussels. I'm told by the man behind the desk that there's a "petit probléme." I ask what is the "petit probléme" and I'm told that my connection to Hamburg is cancelled and that I should go to Berlin, change at Hannover, and then get another bus to Hamburg from there. I do so. I get to Hannover at 7.00 am and it's all deserted. I've literally been dumped in Germany and nobody knows what's going on. I ring the 24 hour Eurolines emergency number on the back of my ticket because there's no way I'm spending my money navigating their incomprehensible menu system. I'm told that there was no problem and that the man in Brussels misdirected me. I'm told to go to the railway station and get a €15 ticket to Hamburg. I go there. It's not €15. It's €41. I get on the train and make an increasingly sweary call to Eurolines who tell me that they'll be refunding my €41 for this. I say they'd better and say I've other things to write in and complain about.

 

I get to Hamburg eventually.

 

The fest is ace, by the way.

 

The return trip isn't.

 

Given that I have few euros left by the end of the fest, I decide to try and change my tickets forwards a day because I can't afford to go to a girlie bar or get drunk with sailors and I don't know what else to do in Hamburg for a day and a bit and can't afford a hotel room. I find the Eurolines desk in Hamburg. They tell me that they can change the Hamburg-Brussels leg of the journey but they can't change the Brussels-London leg from here. It will cost €20 and I'll lose the ticket from Brussels to London. I ask why they can't just ring the Brussels office and ask them about changing it there. They say I have to do it in person. I say that's just nuts because I booked this ticket initially over the phone, so surely, as they're the same company, it oughtn't be a problem, and I'm met with sarcastic abuse by two folks who put the "offensive" into "charm offensive." I ring the 24 hour emergency number and I'm told that they don't really have any control over what the European offices get up to, they can just shout at them but the European offices aren't obliged to actually do anything.

 

I spend my €20 but insist on keeping my old tickets so I can refund them later. They oblige but roll their eyes when doing so.

 

When I get to Brussels I explain to the Brussels folks what's happened and finally, someone's actually helpful, and changes my ticket over with no argument or charging or anything like that, and says that some of his colleagues in other offices are "des vrais connards." I agree with him. I finally get back to London.

 

Needless to say, next year I'm getting on a plane or a train or whatever.

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Excellent read. Typical not only of National Express, but of public transport in general including and especially budget aiurlines. This is precisely why I drivce absolutely everywhere. I worked out once that it would be cheaper for me to drive a Rolls Royce everywhere rather than use busses or trains. I don't have a Roller, but it makes you think.

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Actually, European trains are generally very good. The French ones in particular (notwithstanding the Metro / RER) - I lived in France while at the Sorbonne for a year and found the TGV, Thalys (the Belgian international railways), and DB Nachtzug (overnighters to Germany) to be very efficient and helpful. And far less expensive than our ageing, clunky railways. And they tend to have one fare for one journey, regardless of how many companies' remits you're going through.

 

Unfortunately, in the UK, public transport is only workable in London and a few other large cities. Everywhere else it's direbollockal.

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sounds like torture, cheap? get what you pay for!

Views expressed in this forum by me are my own personal opinion and you take it on face value! I make any comments to the best of my knowledge but you take my advice at your own risk.

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To say 'you get what you pay for' is not the entire truth, as some identical services have huge differences in price, but the whole point of consumer choice is that if you feel that for you a different service offers a different value to you then chosse the one that suits you best.

 

The problem with long distance journeys is that we tend to make them rarely, and we cannot all choose from our own experiences.

 

I could not face sitting in a coach for endless hours, regardless of the operator. I therefore choose not to. Trains, though, are much better at delivering long distances with the ability to stretch legs, look out over the countryside and so on.

 

But, I choose the option of car/ferry/car for trips into Europe. It allows me to stop where I want, not the scheduled stops of a coach trip, not (for me) the claustrophobic confines of the Channel Tunnel. But, the drive is tiring. Petrol isn't cheap.

 

Those choices are personal, and the OP has served a very valuable role in giving a personal insight into his experiences with Eurolines. (National Express simply are their agents in the UK, although there is a responsibility on their part for the service which they sold)

 

I have found Belgian and French railways to be very good, amazing to hear Belgian railway staff switching between English, French and Dutch when dealing with customers, normally over open counters, none of the Festung BR situation we suffer in England with clerks serving through glass, talking through badly set up microphones with feedback if you put your bag on the counter whilst searching for credit cards.

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