The coach industry has cautiously welcomed the government’s roadmap towards the removal of restrictions in England, but one trade body is seeking clarity on whether day trips will be permitted from 12 April and for how long social distancing requirements will impact vehicle capacities.
Coach Tourism Association (CTA) Chair Robert Shaw says that the Association is “engaging with tourism industry colleagues and government to get clarification on some of the detailed arrangements, including whether day trips can recommence from 12 April, even if that is only with attractions and catering outdoors.”
More relaxations in England from no earlier than 17 May will reopen further workstreams, including holidays. Mr Shaw says that while mid-May could be later than some in the sector had hoped that those steps would be taken, “it does now give us a date to work towards.”
He adds: “What is certain is that our passengers are desperate to travel again. We are all looking forward to seeing coach groups enjoying the best of the UK this summer and beyond. We are on the road back.”
Coach operator’s cautious welcome for England roadmap
The roadmap has also been cautiously welcomed by other parties. Peter Godward Coaches Operations Manager Andrew Church says he is “generally positive” about its contents. He views 17 May as a key date, particularly as that may be from when overseas travel is again permitted.
The Basildon operator ordinarily carries out many day trips to Belgium and France as a staple part of its workload. Mr Church is keen to restart them as soon as possible, although he is cautious about the potential for both delays to the roadmap’s timeline and border crossing unknowns in a post-Brexit world.
“We are already speaking to customers to gauge their thoughts about restarting day trips. Dependent on government guidance we are hopeful that we could be able to travel to Belgium and France from 17 May,” he says.
Additionally, there is cautious hope that incoming groups may be able to return in the later months of 2021.
Mr Church adds that he has already engaged in discussion with one organiser of incoming tours. It is hopeful that they will be able to come to the UK this year.
Ski clients are also now looking at their transport arrangements for the 2021/22 season, but Mr Church believes that it will be 2022 before pre-COVID-19 passenger volumes return.
Sunak must not forget coaches in March Budget: CPT
Confederation of Passenger Transport Chief Executive Graham Vidler has also welcomed the certainty that the government’s roadmap provides, but he has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to use his Budget on 3 March to provide support for the coach industry.
“We should not forget that operators are facing another year with significantly reduced demand. Those trips that do run face a challenge to break even because of the need for social distancing until at least the completion of the Prime Minister’s review into the issue,” says Mr Vidler.