Take a trip on the National Express: Hostess shares fond memories

It was a job which often made the difference between a good coach journey and a great one.

Thursday, 21st July 2022, 8:54 am
Updated Thursday, 21st July 2022, 8:55 am

Val Fletcher worked as a hostess for National Express during the 1990s on a number of services between Yorkshire and London.

Hostesses operated on services across the network serving drinks, snacks, checking passengers onto the services and taking care of passengers.

She has been sharing her memories as the coach firm celebrates 50 years on the road - from trips to the seaside to long-haul motorway journeys.

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Val Fletcher pictured working as a hostess for National Express.

“It was the best job I’ve ever had”, recalls Val, 55. “I loved it so much, meeting so many different people and travelling up and down the country.

“It was hard work and long hours, but we had so much fun. I even met my now-husband on board, who was a driver on the network.”

“We were immaculately turned out in beautiful uniforms that really made us stand out. The outfits were on par with flight crew uniforms and we felt proud to wear the National Express badge.”

A generation of passengers will remember the National Express coach station on Wellington Street in Leeds city centre. It relocated to Dyer Street adjoining Leeds Central Bus Station in March 1996.

The National Express coach station on Wellington Street in Leeds city centre pictured in June 1994.

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Val, who lives in Ossett, recalls receiving a famous face aboard one of the services she was working on: “Dickie Bird joined the 240 service from Dewsbury to Heathrow and was such a gentleman. He wore his famous Panama hat, raincoat and carried a cardboard suitcase. He ordered a plain chicken sandwich on white bread and ordered a tea with one sugar. I’ll never forget it!”

Val says the best thing about the job was helping to make passengers smile.

“The services we hostesses offered was often the difference between a good journey and a great one. Taking the time to check on passengers; offering them a drink or just chatting with them, especially if they were travelling alone, really made the difference to them.

The check-in desk at the new National Express Dyer Street Coach Station in 1996.

“I received a number of cards and lots of passengers remembered me from previous journeys and shared their memories and kind words on how I looked after them. It meant the world to me.”

After Val left the network, her passion for coaches had been well and truly lit.

“I have a huge collection of miniature coach models – everything from the services I worked on to the older and newer models. I am also really proud of my collection of tickets, timetables, training certificates and uniforms from my time as a hostess.

"They hold such dear memories for me and really are very treasured possessions.”

Chris Hardy, managing director for National Express UK Coach, said: “We’ve have been a part of people’s lives for half a century and it’s been great hearing stories from our customers and staff, past and present - from couples who met on the coach and are now married, recollections from our long-serving drivers and coach station staff, to tales from our former jolly hostesses.”