The coach industry has been urged to continue to back the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) ahead of a meeting with Transport Minister Baroness Vere that will further underline the sector’s case for government support.
The rallying call was made by John Johnson (pictured), Commercial Director of Johnsons Coach and Bus Travel and Chairman of CPT’s Coach Commission.
Mr Johnson says that the industry’s plight will only be heard to its fullest extent if operators get entirely behind CPT’s efforts. Amid “massive volumes of noise” that are being created by other sectors, he says that CPT continues to work hard in the background to articulate a voice for the coach industry.
“We are always vulnerable to not being heard or noticed by government or stakeholders. We are by nature a fragmented industry, made up of a great many local, hardworking smaller businesses, very often in family ownership,” continues Mr Johnson.
“It has never been as important as it is now for us to have a strong trade association. As we try to emerge from this crisis, all coach operators will benefit from everything that CPT achieves on our behalf. Any trade body is only as strong as its membership.”
Mr Johnson adds that a ‘strength in numbers’ approach will enable the most comprehensive case to be put to the government.
He says that the coach industry is among those that has been exposed most severely to fallout from the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on leisure and group travel. “I urge all non-member operators to step forward, come to the aid of the party and sign up.”
Mr Johnson’s words came on the same day that the government was accused in Parliament of treating coach operators “with contempt.”
Sir Christopher Chope, Conservative MP for Christchurch, made the comment on 2 July. He pointed out that two months have passed since CPT first raised the need for industry support. Sir Christopher also referenced the letter sent to Chancellor Rishi Sunak in early June underlining that message. That document was co-signed by over 550 coach operators.
It is understood that there has still been no firm response from the government to those calls. The industry is at risk of “shedding thousands of jobs” if no support is forthcoming. CPT and a delegation of operators will meet Baroness Vere on 15 July to further reinforce the case for bespoke backing.
In response to Sir Christopher, Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport Rachel Maclean MP advised that the government “takes the concerns of the coach industry incredibly seriously, recognising the key part it plays in the tourism sector.”
Despite Ms Maclean’s comments, ministers have repeatedly failed to agree that coaching should be considered as part of the leisure sector in terms of its eligibility for the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund in England. That support source is worth up to £25,000.