Few in the coach industry can have been unaware of the Honk for Hope protest in London on 20 July, staged as calls for support louden still further.
That the government’s only response thus far has been to complain to the Metropolitan Police that the convoy was making too much noise is indicative of the contempt in which it holds not only the ongoing crisis that has gripped coaching, but the industry in general.
Less than a week earlier, ministers dismissed Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) proposals for a sector-specific support package. That is a further illustration of how the coach industry is viewed. There are suggestions that despite countless hours of lobbying, some decisionmakers still struggle to differentiate between a coach and a bus.
Will that approach change in September, though? It may have to. That is when the government estimates that there will be a need for 5,000 additional vehicles for dedicated home-to-school services in England. How it has arrived at that figure is not clear. The accuracy of some previous governmental estimates in other areas bears consideration.
But that, so far, appears to be it in terms of support for the coach industry.
Some operators have already suggested that offers of extra contract work in September should be declined. While that would be the ultimate way in which to demonstrate the coach industry’s role in transport, it would be an impossible route to follow for those whose survival may hinge on the additional income.
Both Honk for Hope and CPT are committed to further work to pressure the government to give additional support to coaches. But with ignorance about what the industry is and what it does coupled to an expectation that 5,000 additional vehicles will fall from the sky come September, it is completely impossible to predict what the next move from Westminster will be – if, indeed, there is even to be one.