Tour giant WA Shearings is reshaping its tours feeder network in the north of England with the introduction of a ‘Home Connect’ service, which will replace around 20% of the current advertised picking-up points. The company is buying between 40 and 60 seven-seat VW Transporter minibuses, to provide a door-to-door service and will not take any new full-size coaches for the next year’s tour programme.
Chief Executive John Slatcher said that he hopes that this will create a huge improvement in the overall holiday experience for many passengers, with tour programmes also being restructured to reduce the amount of time spent at interchanges.
“We’ve gained more volume in areas such as Yorkshire this year and it gives us the chance to slicken up the whole operation,” he said. “Pick-up points will be reduced, as will some connections at interchanges, which will mean passengers getting to their destinations earlier, or in the case of European tours, catching an earlier ferry and reaching their first night’s hotel that bit earlier. Because of traffic conditions we have been stretching running times every year, but this scheme gives us a chance to reduce journey times.”
At the heart of the new operation is the optional ‘home connect’ service (available for a supplementary fee) which will feed into en route collection points (primarily at motorway services) where passengers can by-pass the main tour interchanges and shorten their journeys. In the north-west, homes within 25 miles of Stretton are being offered the service, amounting to some 3 million households.
More independent regional brochures are also being produced, reducing the need for passengers from different regions to mix.
The scheme is initially being introduced in the midlands, north-east and north-west, and has already been taken up by some 18% of bookings made so far. Mr Slatcher said that the 26% of passengers using free parking at WA Shearings’ interchanges, will continue to be offered the service.
At present minibuses are used in the London area to speed up passenger returns, particularly when tour coaches are late, but these only feed advertised pick-up points, and no change is planned for this area. Nevertheless, the new minibuses will be kept busy all week on airport feeders, which operate on days when there are no coach departures.