RHA Coaches reveals first-year fees and brings forward launch date

RHA Coaches – the new trade body for UK coach operators – has revealed its membership pricing and brought forward its launch date by four weeks from 1 April.

RHA Coaches will now open from 1 March, with applications accepted from 19 February.

In the fourth of a series of webinars introducing the new coaching arm of the RHA, the trade body set out what RHA UK Membership Director Phil Snowden says is “transparent and clear pricing.”

He says rates have been set for the first year at a level that recognises the very difficult financial position that coach operators are in as a result of Covid.

The pricing for year two will see an increase from the ‘introductory rates’ as RHA Coaches members transition to the RHA’s standard per-vehicle tapered pricing, rates are on the main RHA website.

The RHA has held its standard prices for three years, and if there is an increase in 2022 it is likely to be modest, says Phil Snowden.

He added that operators only need to pay for the number vehicles they actually operate – i.e. those that generate revenue – not the total specified on their O-Licence, and not including any that are laid-up in the yard.

“If you have a fleet of 40 coaches, but you’re only operating 30, you only pay for 30,” he says.

He added that to help operators further, membership can be paid monthly by direct debit at no extra cost.

He says there has been “significant interest from prospective members” and confirmed that RHA now has the resources in place to support coaches.

The webinar marked the first appearance of RHA Coach Operations Manager Andy Warrender, who started work for the trade body on Monday (1 February).

He explained the various support measures in place for operators, from legal help, to 24/7 crisis control and media management.

The formation of RHA Coaches was announced in December 2020 and top coach industry players Richard Bamber (Anthony’s Travel, Runcorn), Andrew Scott (Stanley Travel, Co. Durham) and Jenna Rush (North East Coach Travel, Newcastle) have been instrumental in its creation.

Strong policy and speaking to the right part of government

Among a range of topics discussed during the webinar, Phil Snowden set out how RHA policy is formed by involving all members: “We can’t do it without you. You are the biggest influence on our policy. We are not a top-down organisation. We are a members’ organisation, we listen to the voices of our members. We don’t do policy by edict.”

“It’s about how we raise issues and who we raise them with. The coach sector has encountered a glass ceiling, an invisible barrier. Issues typically get as far as a junior minister, that’s how governments work when confronted by a problem. That’s not something that the RHA will allow to happen.”

Rod McKenzie, Managing Director, Policy, RHA

Responding to an audience question about how RHA Coaches can make a difference on issues that have already been raised by other trade bodies, Managing Director, Policy, Rod McKenzie says it’s about understanding how government works.

“It’s about how we raise issues and who we raise them with. The coach sector has encountered a glass ceiling, an invisible barrier. Issues typically get as far as a junior minister, that’s how governments work when confronted by a problem.

“They will say ‘thanks very much for bringing that to our attention, we’ll take that one away and come back to you’ and it’s a way of kicking it into the long grass.

“Now, that’s not something that the RHA will allow to happen.

“We tend to go directly to the Secretary of State (Cabinet level) and a lot of the negotiations we’re having over Brexit and Covid are direct with Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

“And it gets stuff done. It’s a higher level, a more sophisticated level of government engagement than most trade associations are able to do.

“Also, governments read the papers, governments watch the news. They respond to stuff in the news that’s negative or damaging to them.

“The easy way for governments to control trade associations and others is it’s often easier to keep it ‘below the line’ and below public consciousness.

“It doesn’t cost them votes, apart potentially from yours, and it means that governments can water-down the influence of trade associations.

“I know, because I’ve seen it done for 30 years. That’s how public life works.”

Roundtable events for early members

Operators joining as ‘founder members’ between 19 February and 1 March will have access to a range of benefits and “help us to shape coach membership” says Andy Warrender.

“The early access will allow you to have your voice heard and help us to shape RHA Coaches membership to suit the industry.”

They will also have access to a series of roundtable events, comprising RHA Coaches members, industry specialists, stakeholders and commentators.

The first two events, on 4 March and 18 March, will cover the critical role played by the coach industry and the road to a greener future for the coach sector, respectively.

For more information and to view the four webinars visit coaches.rha.uk.net

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