‘Coach operators must be eligible for any Omicron grants’: CPT

Coach operators must be eligible for Omicron support measures, says CPT

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been urged to ensure that local authorities (LAs) in England consider coach operators to be eligible for any grant funding that is awarded to support hospitality, tourism and leisure against a background of cancelled bookings and reduced customer confidence caused by the Omicron variant.

The call has been made by the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT). Chief Executive Graham Vidler wrote to Mr Sunak on 17 December pointing out that the coach industry “is once again facing an incredibly difficult period” as a result of recent restrictions and messaging.

Mr Vidler says that coach operators “have been hit by mass cancellations” over recent days as a result of the emergence of Omicron, harming their recovery. He notes that at what is traditionally a busy time of year, average cancellations are running at 40% but that some operators are seeing “much higher levels.”

However, CPT’s CEO adds that he has been “heartened” to hear that the Treasury will look to ensure that the £250m of grant funding that it believes has not yet been handed out by LAs is given to businesses that need it.

“This unquestionably must include coach operators and could be resolved by making it explicit in guidance to LAs that [those businesses] are eligible,” adds Mr Vidler. “This approach would provide the industry with breathing space until the return of business in what will hopefully be a few weeks’ time and ensure that the industry can gear up quickly to help the economy recover by getting people to places and attractions across the UK.”

The letter has been copied to Under-Secretary of State for Transport Baroness Vere and Under-Secretary of State for Sport, Heritage and Tourism Nigel Huddleston.

Illustrating the impact of Omicron already, mainstream media has reported that North East operator Stanley Travel saw 22 bookings cancelled on one day during week commencing 13 December, and that it has lost almost 100 since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced “Plan B” measures.

CPT has underlined its previous stance that the lack of sector-specific government support for coach operators in England since the pandemic began has been “inexplicable.”

A spokesperson adds: “With people being encourages to minimise social interactions, it is inevitable that hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses will suffer. It is vital that these sectors, which include coach operators, are given the support that they need as a matter of urgency to help to protect tens of thousands of jobs.”