Trade body RHA Coaches says that updated guidance from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) suggests that coach trips should not operate until stage 3 of the roadmap out of lockdown, Monday 17 May at the earliest.
This directly contradicts the ruling guidance, safer transport guidance for operators, and which RHA Coaches believes governs the sector.
The DCMS guidance states that:
• From Monday 29 March, private hire coach tours are only permitted for a private group of a single household/support bubble. The coach driver and tour guide do not count towards the single household/support bubble rule. Only day trips are permitted at this point. Large coach trips and tours with multiple groups are not permitted at this step.
• No earlier than Monday 12 April, private hire coach tours are only permitted for a private group of a single household/support bubble. The coach driver and tour guide do not count towards the single household/support bubble rule. Large coach trips and tours with multiple groups are not permitted at this step.
• No earlier than Monday 17 May, large coach trips and tours with multiple groups in line with the wider social contact limits at this stage – in a group of six people or two households indoors – are permitted.
RHA Operations Manager for Coaches Andy Warrender said that the guidance appears to have little in the way of any rational foundation, and seems to have been arrived at in a somewhat arbitrary fashion: “Coaches have never been mandated not to operate. The customers will soon be permitted to travel and as destinations will be open, so it seems somewhat bizarre that the guidance has developed in this way.”
“There has been a fairly rational interpretation across the industry that as leisure travel restrictions were lifted from 12 April, and that as the key tourist destinations were starting to re-open, coaches could restart day trips from that date.
“The continued restrictions on overnight accommodation would of course make it difficult to run tours until hotels reopen in May, but it seems bizarre that DCMS should come up with such an arbitrary view. If the destinations are open and the public are allowed to travel, then why would coaches not be permitted to take them there? It doesn’t make sense.”
Says RHA Coaches: “We are engaged with DCMS on this matter and will update our members as soon as we’re able. At this stage we would not advise cancelling trips due to operate between 12 April and 16 May, but we would suggest that cancellation is a risk that should be factored into any further trips being arranged during this period.”