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THE FIRST outside operators to be signed by up privatisation candidate National Express are now running coaches in full National livery on long-term contract deals.
Already operating as contractors are Greater Manchester Transport's Charterplan subsidiary on the Manchester-Caernarfon service and Percivals and Premier Travel sharing the Oxford to Cambridge run, which has now become part of the National Express network with the two independents as contractors.
The arrangements follow establishment of National Ex press as a network planning and marketing body only with an "arms' length" relationship with its regular providers of vehicles.
Before, all coaches were obtained from the other National Bus Company subsidiary companies which have now been given the option of turning down National Express commitments.
The first NBC company to pull out was Ribble, soon after the new arrangements were established last year under control of NBC National Product Group director Derek Fythche.
Arrangements have been made through NPG for its only operating company, London Country Bus Services, to hold the licences for the NE contractors.
An indication of services likely to be operated by companies outside NBC was given when LCBS recently began registering for services as diverse as Birmingham to London and Portsmouth to Southampton, as well as the Oxford/Cambridge route.
Rumours are circulating that NE could be an early privatisation candidate to help NBC raise the extra £16m cash it needs to meet the shortfall on its recently imposed Government external finance limit for 1985/6.
Another candidate could be the self-contained LCBS operation within the National Products Group or part of it, like the growing Green Line commuter and leisure network.
NBC asset sales are also likely to be stepped up in a bid to raise cash.
• National Express has ended its agreement with Irish coach operator Slattery Travel of Tralee by which it jointly operated coach services between London and Limerick, and has introduced new joint services with Cores lompair Eireann.