Europe & Britain | Inspiration

From then to now: how coach travel has changed over 75 years

Trafalgar is celebrating turning 75! A lot has changed over the decades – especially the way we tour. To celebrate our 75th anniversary, we talked to our resident coach travel experts – Giorgio Nocent and Daniel Round-Turner – about our coach travel history and how coach travel has changed over the last seven decades.

GET INSPIRED BY: 75 Years of Trafalgar

What was coach travel like 75 years ago?

Coach travel just after WWII was certainly not the luxurious travel mode it is today. There was no air-conditioning, no air-suspension, no panoramic tinted windows, no phone chargers, 240V power-points or DVD player with TV screens… And more importantly, no onboard bathroom! 

The vehicles were more like buses as opposed to coaches, which specialise in long-distance travel, with plenty of space for luggage and an onboard bathroom. They were slow vehicles that easily overheated when fully loaded and traversing the back roads of Europe. Guests had much slower journeys with more breaks to allow for the vehicle to fuel up and cool down.

RELATED CONTENT: 30+ years of memories: Longest-serving Trafalgar Travel Directors reveal all

bus from the 1940s
 Image: A bus from the 1940s.

What were the first Trafalgar coaches like?

The first Trafalgar coaches were smaller and not designed to cover several hundred kilometres in one day – although they could handle international travel, albeit at a slower pace than modern-day coaches. They had front engines and space on the roof and in the boot (at the back) for luggage. 

How has coach travel changed over the last 75 years?

While the German autobahns began back in the thirties and forties, WWII interrupted the development of the motorway network in Europe. However, many construction projects took off around Europe after the war, and by the fifties, motorway networks improved journeys and considerably cut down on travel time.

Buses and coaches became bigger, with more seats and more room for luggage. Later models had rear engines, with a taller body allowing for more luggage space. Other new features were air-conditioning, tinted panoramic windows, stereo systems, and a PA system for the Travel Director to talk to the guests.

RELATED CONTENT: Meet the guests who are so excited to be back on the road with us

Mercedes bus from 1970s
Image: A Mercedes coach from the 1970s. The modern-day coaches stem from this shape and design.

What are the best changes that have occurred in coach travel? 

There have been many fantastic changes in coach travel over the decades. For example, stricter driving laws have improved road safety over the years. Coaches can now also comfortably travel several hundred kilometres in a day, with onboard bathroom facilities, allowing for fewer stops. 

The latest Euro 6 engines are very environmentally friendly, with the exhaust air often cleaner than the air the engine takes in. In fact, modern coach travel is one of the greenest and cleanest forms of travel, with less carbon-dioxide emissions per person, per kilometre than private cars, planes, and even trains.

RELATED CONTENT: Why coach travel is the safest and most responsible way to tour the world

What are Trafalgar coaches like today?

The Trafalgar coaches of today often feature USB ports on every seat and 240V power-points available on the coach. There are modern stereo systems capable of playing DVDs and videos through an HDMI port from a laptop, and music via Bluetooth and MP3 players. 

Air suspension creates a smoother ride, while tinted windows allow for more comfortable travel and wide views of the landscape. The HVAC system keeps the coach warm in winter and cool in summer, allowing for travel all year round – even to the hottest or coldest parts of the continents. 

Long-range fuel tanks mean we can easily achieve travel days of 600-700 kilometres without fuel stops. If that seems like a long journey, don’t worry – the onboard bathrooms are available to use in between the comfort stops at services and towns en route to your next destiantion.

modern day Trafalgar coach
Image: A modern Trafalgar coach produced in 2021

What kind of innovations do you think we’ll see transforming coach travel in the future?

Zero-emission vehicles are the way of the future and there is a lot of technology in development for coach travel right now. 

In the near future, hyrodgen will power coaches. The hydrogen will convert to electricity to power the electric motors. That means guests will be whisked away even more quietly to their next destination. 

The zero-emission vehicles will also allow access to city centres that will ban diesel-powered vehicles in the near future. Our guests will be effortlessly transported around the world to all the incredible destinations on our trips. 

What is your favourite thing about how coach travel has changed? Let us know in the comments below!

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