The likely move to a Labour government at the next general election gives coach and bus much to consider, blurred in the meantime by change to its ministerial representative at an unhelpful point via Rishi Sunak’s reshuffle.
The sector and bodies acting for it are thus now tasked with building their case with the newcomer – now revealed to be Guy Opperman MP – and taking forward largely positive work with Richard Holden, while at the same time positioning the industry to work with a new government later.
While bus was generally most prominent in Mr Holden’s engagement with the sector, he had a more constructive grasp of coaches than did his predecessor, particularly surrounding decarbonisation and PSVAR. It must be hoped that Mr Opperman continues in such a vein, and that the same approach translates to the new government.
Notwithstanding the current administration’s unpredictability, playing the political game ahead of the election has already started. Labour seems keen to work collaboratively, although its favour of bus franchising will gravely trouble some members of the sector.
On a wider level, Labour makes promising noises about Apprenticeship Levy reform. Equally relevant is a parallel belief that apprenticeships may not be ideal for all careers with a skills shortage, and that a streamlined approach to funding and training would sometimes do better.
The Conservatives, meanwhile, have shown more interest in bus of late, and inclusion of coach in a call for evidence on infrastructure for zero-emission heavy vehicles is welcome.
Regardless of the colour of the next government, political engagement to influence the future must continue – on every level.