Brian Bonitto, Special Assignment Editor
COME OCTOBER, Knutsford Express - the cross-country, luxury bus service - intends to add the tourist destination of Negril to its daily roster.
"We are working on plans for the Negril leg of our operations," said Hopeton Thompson, operations manager at the five-year-old transport company. "And, this move will be an extension of our Montego Bay route."
Thompson said his company's desire to establish a permanent presence in the beach resort town should have materialised this summer. However, the roll-out was delayed due to the upgrading of its Montego Bay office. He said the Kingston office would be next in line for a facelift.
According to Thompson, the journey into Negril would be a familiar one, as the Knutsford Express is the "premier carrier" for the annual Appleton Temptation Island party series during the summer.
"However, the decision to cover this route was a well-thought-out one," he said. "We were receiving lots of requests from both business persons and tourists to establish a service into Negril from Kingston and vice versa. And, based on these requests, we took the decision to have a permanent foothold in that part of the island," he told Automotives.
The company's current fleet comprises eight buses and caters to a wide cross section of passengers.
"Our main customers are business people. We also take passengers to and from the airport, as well the average person who just wants to travel outside of Kingston in comfort and style," he said.
Thompson said what makes his service superior from those offered locally is the emphasis on comfort.
"On boarding, each passenger is given a bottle of water," he said. "And, all our buses are clean, spacious and fully air-conditioned. They have in-house theatre systems, bathroom facilities, public-address system and music for the passengers' listening pleasure."
For passenger safety, the buses are equipped with fire extinguishers, first-aid kits and are monitored by a leading security-service provider.
Thompson said the drivers employed by Knutsford Express are rigorously trained before they are allowed behind the steering wheel.
"There are no cash transactions on the buses, as fares are paid by credit cards or at our various offices," he pointed out.
The operations manager said free parking is provided for passengers going out of town.
"Although security is provided at these parking lots, passengers park at their own risk," he said.
Need for service
Thompson explained that the birth of the Knutsford Express came as a result of an identified need for the service.
"One of our directors, Oliver Townsend, was doing a course at the University of the West Indies. He was driving back and forth from Ocho Rios (St Ann) and he found the journey very hectic," Thompson said. "He was the one who introduced the idea of the Knutsford Express service and, as they say, the rest is history."
"Today, we have four departures per day," he added.
The Knutsford Express operates every day from New Kingston, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay.
On weekdays, luxury buses leave New Kingston to Ocho Rios and Montego Bay at 6 a.m.; 9:30 a.m.; 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
The regular cost of a one-way trip is $2,225. However, if a passenger books early, he or she would benefit from a reduced rate of $1,950. Senior citizens and university students are offered discounted rates.