The day of Swim Serpentine had arrived after various setbacks. Seven us of had a coach booked with National Express because I felt that it was the best, most stress-free way to travel. This was even before the train strikes. How wrong was I!
I will begin by saying that National Express have offered us 50% off a future journey in the next 12 months. We have declined this offer and are awaiting further correspondence from customer services. This could take up to 15 working days.
UPDATE: National Express claim that the only reason we were “an hour late” into London was due to traffic which is outside of their control!
Choosing the Departure Time
Our Serpentine Swim wave initially set off at 14:20. All three of us swimming can be a little anxious so I booked us a coach that would arrive in London with not only plenty of time to get there, but also factoring in time to eat.
Since booking but before departure day two things happened. The coach was moved to 08:55 but I figured that there was still plenty of time. Our wave also moved another ten minutes – to 14:30. Plus I read the guidelines and found that we should aim to arrive 45 minutes before our wave. Still plenty of time.
On the Day
To further relieve anxieties I had gone one further and sorted out parking for the day. There was no need to stress about all getting there as it wasn’t a stupidly early time either. National Express tell you to be there 20 minutes before the coach is due to leave, this meant we needed to be there at 8:35am and I think we were there by 8:30.
The No-Show National Express Coach
But when the coach turned up there were lots of us waiting and only a few were able to get on. She did use a word I forgot what it was, to explain that there should also be another bus. However, it hadn’t shown up. This was like the end of the world and I just cried! My husband calming me down telling me that we could still drive there if need be.
The driver assured us that there would be another coach arriving for us in 15/20 minutes. My anxiety lessened because she told us that, unlike the coach we were meant to be getting, it would go directly there. Being regular passengers I quickly worked out that this could even mean that we could arrive slightly earlier than the planned time.
The Replacement Coach for National Express
However, the coach did not turn up in 15/20 minutes. In fact the later coach (the 9:35 I believe) arrived and left without us – getting to London before us!
Finally not long after 9:35 a replacement coach arrived and we were on our way. We were sat at the back and so didn’t really know what was going on but the driver did keep pulling over to National Express bus stops. Apparently he was using SatNav on his mobile and kept losing signal/his way.
The Legal Break
Whether this was true or not at 10:49 he pulled into the Membury Services and announced that legally he had to have a 45 minute break as he had been driving for four hours! Of course we totally respect that he has to legally stop but if we had known about this before departure we would have been aware that we would have arrived much later than anticipated. Most likely we would have made the decision to drive down there ourselves.
Also I am pretty sure the driver didn’t account for how many people were on the coach. A lot got off at the services and he just went when it was time to leave, hopefully everyone was back on!
Arriving in London
We finally arrived at our stop in London at around 2:10pm. Our wave set off at 2:30pm and we were meant to get there for 1:45pm (to change, listen to a safety briefing, have our hats checked etc). We still had a 30 minute walk to go too!
Never have we had problems quite like this with National Express and I am hopeful that they will rectify this in a manner that we can all be convinced to use them again. Especially as we frequent London quite a considerable amount.