Calls for the coach industry to receive government financial support have become louder, with over 300 operators providing data to the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) as part of its Back Britain’s Coaches campaign.
While many operators are taking advantage of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, evidence has come to light proving that not all local authorities (LAs) are following directions or guidance relating to continuation of payments for home-to-school services.
In one case, a Scottish LA initially offered to pay only 25% of the contract rate, although many others in Scotland and elsewhere have confirmed that they will maintain 100% of the agreed rate.
In England, Westminster has refused to back a position adopted by the Local Government Association (LGA). It initially advised its members that coach operators should be considered part of the leisure sector. That would have made them eligible for business rates relief and grants. Because of the government’s failure to support that position the LGA’s advice has been withdrawn, although it is understood that some operators have received the payments regardless.
At least six coach operators have entered administration since the onset of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, with Truemans Coaches of Ash Vale among the most recent on Monday 27 April. Others have warned that they could follow if government support is not delivered soon.
CPT continues to engage with the Department for Transport to explore shat may be available to the industry.
CPT has also encouraged members to lobby elected representatives and raise awareness of the scale of the issues facing the sector, something that CPT says is key if support is to be awarded. A toolkit for that purpose is available on CPT’s website.
Coaches were absent from an announcement about funding for the transport sector made on Friday 24 April by Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps.
Mr Shapps unveiled a package of support measures for domestic and international ferry routes and light rail networks in England. It complements that already provided for the rail and the bus industries in England.
Earlier in April the government announced a £167m COVID-19 Bus Services Support Grant for bus operators in England. It also suspended rail franchising, instead paying a management fee and taking responsibility for revenue risk.
All the above measures have been described as ensuring that essential services can continue to run, but so far there has been no acceptance of the similar involvement of the coach industry in providing such services and the support it requires to do so. At least one operator has questioned the government’s understanding of the varied work that coach operators carry out.