The plans of some coach operators in England have been thrown into disarray after it was confirmed that private hire coach trips and excursions with more than a single household group or support bubble aboard the vehicle will not be permitted to restart until step three of the government’s roadmap begins, which will be no earlier than 17 May.
The bombshell is contained in guidance published by the Cabinet Office. It was dropped on 15 April during a meeting involving Under-Secretary of State for Transport Baroness Vere that was organised by Emma Hardy MP. The stance is contrary to what had been understood in the industry in England. Some operators had restarted day trips with multiple groups from step two of the roadmap on 12 April.
It is understood that Lady Vere told the gathering that the Cabinet Office decree “trumps” the Safer Travel Guidance issued by the Department for Transport (DfT). The latter permits the coach trips in question to take place. It is what many operators in England had been basing their decisions on.
Lady Vere advised attendees that she will “urgently” speak to the Cabinet Office in a bid to have the ban until step three amended. However, there is no guarantee that change will be forthcoming. That leaves operators with bookings for trips before 17 May in an acutely awkward position.
It is also understood that Lady Vere informed the meeting that DfT had to push hard for coach trips with multiple households or support bubbles to be permitted from 17 May. It remains the case that scheduled coach services can operate with no restriction on the number of groups aboard, except for that imposed by the vehicle’s usable capacity.
The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) has described the Cabinet Office position as “unfair and nonsensical” in a communication to members. CPT adds that it will be writing to the Cabinet Office urgently.
A Q&A issued to the Tourism Alliance by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on 29 March had first raised the possibility that coach trips in England for multiple household groups or support bubbles would not be permitted to restart until 17 May at the earliest. That was quickly questioned by trade bodies CPT and RHA.