Coach industry political ally Emma Hardy and 27 other cross-party MPs have jointly written to Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove urging him to quickly reconsider Cabinet Office-approved guidance that in theory does not permit the restart of coach day trips and excursions in England with more than one household group aboard until 17 May.
The group, which is made up of 21 Labour MPs, six from the Conservative party and one Scottish National Party representative, says that the late decision to preclude such work from restarting on 12 April as expected “fails to make sense.”
Mrs Hardy and the cosignatories point out to Mr Gove that coaches are “one of the safest ways to travel to places and attractions.” They add that operators have “introduced COVID-19 secure measures such as designated socially distanced seating, strictly controlled capacity and agreed departure and arrival times with venues.”
The group of MPs claim that none of those precautions are available to the same degree on other modes. “It is also important to note that the majority of [coach] clientele will have had their first or both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine” by now, they add. The MPs also tell Mr Gove that the move has impacted coach operators’ ability to trade their way out of the pandemic.
The group has additionally pointed out that the safer transport guidance (STG) – which until the Cabinet Office bombshell was dropped on 15 April governed all aspects of coach travel – permits coach operators in England to continue to provide day trips and excursions with multiple groups aboard.
“We hope you will see that the cross-party nature of this letter demonstrates the strength of feeling on this issue and we hope you can revisit this decision,” the message to Mr Gove concludes.
Trade bodies the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) and RHA have each told members that they believe coach day trips and excursions in England can continue to go ahead before 17 May.
CPT has advised that under such circumstances, they are operated in a manner that shares characteristics of scheduled services. RHA says that it has seen nothing to confirm that the Cabinet Office guidance overrules STG. CPT adds that while it believes that trips can continue to operate, it wishes to see the offending guidance changed because it is likely to influence the behaviour of venues and attractions to coach groups.
Besides Mrs Hardy, MPs who have signed the letter are:
Peter Aldous – Conservative, Waveney
Tahir Ali – Labour, Birmingham Hall Green
Tonia Antoniazzi – Labour, Gower
Paula Barker – Labour, Liverpool Wavertree
Ian Byrne – Labour, Liverpool West Derby
Dr Lisa Cameron – Scottish National Party, East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow
Sarah Champion – Labour, Rotherham
Rosie Cooper – Labour, West Lancashire
Jonathan Djanogly – Conservative, Huntingdon
Yvonne Fovargue – Labour, Mansfield
Lilian Greenwood – Labour, Nottingham South
Andrew Gwynne – Labour, Denton and Reddish
Gordon Henderson – Conservative, Sittingbourne and Sheppey
Rachel Hopkins – Labour, Luton South
Dan Jarvis – Labour, Barnsley Central
Tony Lloyd – Labour, Rochdale
Siobhain McDonagh – Labour, Mitcham and Morden
Navendu Mishra – Labour, Stockport
Grahame Morris – Labour, Easington
David Mundell – Conservative, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale
Kate Osborne – Labour, Jarrow
Sarah Owen – Labour, Luton North
Dr Daniel Poulter – Conservative, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich
Greg Smith – Conservative, Buckingham
John Spellar – Labour, Warley
Derek Twigg – Labour, Halton
Mick Whitley – Labour, Birkenhead.