Coach operators come together to ask for government support and highlight industry crisis

Family-owned coach operators across Britain have created a video to raise awareness of the challenges facing the coach industry during the COVID-19 crisis.

They are asking people to show their support by sharing the video on social media.

The video is aimed at winning support from local decision-makers and MPs for the plight of Britain’s coach operators.

It comes after the Government’s sudden u-turn which saw coach operators excluded from support measures being offered to the leisure sector.

While bus operators have been given government support – through the continued payment of BSOG (bus service operators grant), along with monies for home-to-school contracts and concessionary travel reimbursement, all at the pre-COVID-19 levels – no such concessions have been granted to the coach industry.

It comes 38 days after operators were forced to lay-up their fleets once social distancing measures came into force on 16 March when people were told to avoid travelling.

While coach operators have furloughed most staff, they are still faced with bills – include finance payments on assets – mainly their coaches, that cannot now be used.

Last week, the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) launched ‘Back Britain’s Coaches’, a major initiative calling on the Government to provide support for the coach industry during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Key numbers:

  • Coach tourism contributes £6m to Britain’s economy each year
  • GB coach industry employs 42,000 people
  • One coach takes one mile of cars off the road

The coach firms’ directors are filmed speaking in front of their laid up fleets – mostly of nearly new vehicles worth at least £300,000 each.

Director of Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire, Johnsons Coach Travel and Chairman of CPT’s Coach Commission, John Johnson says: “I want to highlight the crisis that this industry faces, and the risk that holidays enjoyed by thousands of customers are not going to be available at a time when they most need them.

“Our customers are looking forward to a time when they can confidently book again, travel to great locations and have exciting adventures and create new and happy memories.

“Once the country emerges from all this we need a coach industry that is ready to meet the needs and aspirations of our customers.

“It needs to be in gear and ready to go because our customers have had months of hardship already.

Kathryn Pulham of Bourton-on-the-Water, Cotswolds-based Pulhams Coaches says: “Long-established family business like ours with a real dedication to customers are facing a struggle to survive in the face of no income, and shouldering the burden of huge sums invested in some of the most expensive vehicles on our roads.

Kathryn Pulham: “Long-established family business like ours with a real dedication to customers are facing a struggle to survive.”

“All this has come at a time when the travel industry is usually emerging from the traditionally quiet winter months to a rush of bookings from customers eager for new horizons.

“Our industry relies totally on the spring and summer seasons. Without it most coach business can’t survive.

“With most travel likely to be disrupted well into the summer, the industry is challenged like never before in a crisis that some simply won’t be able to endure.”

Adds Whitland, South Wales-based Taf Valley Coaches’ Clive Edwards: “The challenges we are facing are unprecedented. And when we do finally start to return to normality our industry has to be responsive to the needs of our loyal clients.

“Many will have been amongst the group forced to isolate for three months or more: A generation that deserves respite from a cruelly and arduous extended winter isolation.

“But weighing against this, with virtually no tours for a large part of the summer, the industry needs help to bridge the lengthy gap it faces.”

Mark Anderson, MD of London-based Anderson Travel adds: “It’s not just tours and holidays that are suffering.

“With schools closed, no group travel and the total elimination of major entertainment, corporate and sporting events, we should not forget that coaches are an integral and often invisible part of the country’s education, leisure and transport network.

“We provide those vital links to schools and colleges, step in when rail journeys are disrupted. And it’s not just the fans who rely on us to take them to their favourite sporting events, but also their idols – the players also travel by coach.

“And of course, we are the most environmentally friendly vehicles on our roads.”

Kevin Mayne of Maynes of Buckie, Banffshire, says: “It’s not just companies like us, but across the UK, Europe and the world, so we’re not alone, but there are a lot of companies in the same position, trying to get a voice.”

Ross Bryans, Bryans of Denny, Stirlingshire concurs: “The tourist industry will require us, once the country emerges [from the crisis]. We do cruise ship work, airport transfers, wedding hires and group bookings. If the coach industry isn’t here, then that kind of service can’t be supplied.

Setting out the key role of the British coach industry Martin MacPhail of MacPhails of Salsburgh, Lanarkshire, says: “Coaches are the workhorse of the Scottish tourism industry. We regularly transport large numbers of people to Scotland’s destinations, attractions and hotels.

“We meet passengers at cruise ports, railway stations and airports. And we take children to schools, grieving families to funerals, fans and teams to sporting events.

“And, provide the vital local links that are critical to accessibility and social inclusion.

“In times of crisis it us that come to aid when other travel options have failed.

“We turn up in high-risk situations like extreme weather, or as seen more recently in moments of repatriation. We step into the breach without expectation of thanks or praise.”

“We’re an often unseen hero, and I’m not used to asking for help.

“But today I ask that you come to our industry’s aid so that we may survive and support Scotland’s economy for when life does return to normal.”

Steve Whiteway, former Epsom Coaches MD concludes: “On behalf of an industry that supports countless thousands of jobs in tourism, leisure, education and industry, we ask for your support. And together we’ll ensure that those customers can continue to rely on us.

“Please share this video with your local MPs and decision makers.

“Ask them what they are doing to protect UK tourism and the coach industry that supports it.”

Find out more: Back Britain’s Coaches

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