Victoria Coach Station opened for business on the 10th of March 1932. The new transport hub was opened by the Minister of Transport, P Y Pybus, with a large crowd gathering to witness the launch of the new facility.
The coach station was the work of architects Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, although it was rumoured that Wallis did not exist, and that the name had been made up by Gilbert in order to give the company more gravitas.
Whatever the case, the new building certainly lived up to the impressive reputation that Gilbert’s firm had built up. With its grand style and nuanced art deco stylings, the newest addition to London’s transport sector was hugely impressive, and the reaction to the building was overwhelmingly positive.
The facility had space for 76 coaches, with a large Ticket Office, restaurant, lounge and bar. Interestingly, in an age when such additions were not the norm, the coach station also had a number of offices for private hire on the upper floors.
The first coach to enter the station was a Maidstone and District Leyland Tiger. The coach was greeted with a hugely enthusiastic response from the excited crowd, who thronged round the vehicle as it came to a halt in the newly built coach yard on Elizabeth Street.
In the early years, the majority of business was done in the summer when day trippers and holiday makers made a dash for the coast and the UK’s many seaside resorts.
The Second World War
At first, it was business as usual for the coach station during the Second World War, with the evacuation of children to the suburbs leading to a surge in demand for tickets to go and visit them. The war years eventually began to take their toll on the coach station, however, and after suffering bomb damage during a Nazi air raid, the Minister of Transport decided to suspend all services from the station.
London Coastal Coaches
When Victoria Coach Station opened it was run by an association of coach companies which went by the name of London Coastal Coaches. This loose federation of companies ran the station for nearly fifty years. Indeed, the coach station is still emblazoned with a sign for the company on the facade on Buckingham Palace Road.
The Transport Act and National Express
In 1968 the Transport Act nationalised all privately owned bus and coach services. A new national operator, The National Bus Company, was created. The organisation soon adopted their brand name, National Express.
IN 1980, coach services in the UK were deregulated by an act of parliament. This allowed new operators to enter the market. In 1988, National Express was sold to its management before being floated on the stock exchange. In the same year, Victoria Coach Station was purchased by what was then London Transport.
The Coach Station was the first organisation in the public sector to achieve the government’s new Charter Mark. The award was part of Prime Minister John Major’s Citizen’s Charter which was designed to raise standards in the provision of public services. VCS first achieved the award in 1992. In 2008 the organisation achieved another first by becoming the first organisation in the transport sector to receive the follow up to the Charter Mark – the Customer Service Excellence Award.
In 2017 the coach station celebrated its 85th birthday with a three day heritage event featuring a dazzling array of vintage vehicles from various periods of its history.
Victoria Coach Station has a dedicated Ticket Office and ticket booking service which offers tickets for a variety of European and domestic operators including National Express, Megabus, Flixbus, BlaBlabus, Eurolines, Evan Evans and Premium Tours.
Each year over 14 million pass through Victoria Coach Station’s Arrivals and Departures terminals.
More information about Victoria Coach Station can be found here.
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