Confusion over 12 April restart date for coach trips in England

Guidance on coach tours restart date questioned

RHA Coaches has questioned “arbitrary” guidance that was contained in a Q&A issued to the Tourism Alliance by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on 29 March and which suggests that coach trips in England for multiple groups may not restart until 17 May at the earliest.

The trade body views that approach as a direct contradiction of the safer transport guidance for operators that is regularly updated by the Department for Transport (DfT). It believes that the DfT guidance governs the coach sector and says that the DCMS document “appears to have little in the way of any rational foundation.” Formal guidance has not yet been issued on the DCMS website.

The DCMS comments are hosted on the Coach Tourism Association (CTA) website. They suggest that from step 2, no earlier than 12 April, coach trips will be permitted only for a private group of a single household or support bubble and that large coach trips with multiple groups are not permitted from this stage. The latter may only start from step 3, no earlier than 17 May, the wording continues.

RHA Coaches advises that operators should not cancel trips that are planned to operate between 12 April and 16 May, but it suggests that possible cancellation “is a risk that should be factored into any further trips being arranged during this period.”

Adds Operations Manager for Coaches Andy Warrender: “Coaches have never been mandated not to operate. Customers will soon be permitted to travel, and as destinations will be open, it seems somewhat bizarre that the [DCMS] guidance has developed in this way.

“There has been a fairly rational interpretation across the industry that as leisure travel restrictions [in England] are lifted from 12 April, and as tourist destination will start to reopen, that coaches could restart day trips from that date.

“The continued restrictions on overnight accommodation would make it difficult to run tours until hotels reopen in May, but it seems bizarre that DCMS should come up with such an arbitrary view.”

CTA agrees that the DCMS document conflicts with what has already been published by DfT and how that applies to the restart of coach trips. CTA points to an extract of the DfT guidance. It states that “operators should continue to provide transport services that can accommodate separate multiple groups which conform to the requirements of the relevant social contact rules.”

CTA adds that if no clarification from either DCMS or DfT is forthcoming, “operators will have to assess all the relevant material in planning operations.”