The UK Coach Operators Association (UKCOA) has called on the government to pay a 15ppl rebate of fuel duty for coaches when they are operating a scheduled service as defined by the PSV Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR).
UKCOA wrote to Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi on 18 July requesting the rebate. The trade body says that its proposed targeted approach to fuel price relief is based on a reticence among some local authorities and educational establishments to increase the rates paid for home-to-school services to take account of inflated diesel costs.
In a subsequent template letter that UKCOA is asking its members to send to their MPs to back the call to Mr Zahawi, the trade body notes that for private hire work, coach operators are often largely able to pass the high price of fuel on to the customer. That is much more difficult for home-to-school services, the Association adds, although it acknowledges that in some cases, uplifts have already been granted by contracting bodies.
“A few coach operators… have already handed back contracts because they can no longer afford to operate them,” UKCOA says in its template letter. “We really do not want to create a situation where more do so, especially as we approach the new school year.”
The Association adds that it “has thought long and hard” about how that risk can be mitigated “in the short term, with the hope that in due course fuel prices will return to a more reasonable level.” Since the start of the 2021-22 school year, coach operators have seen fuel costs increase by up to 50%, it says.
The 5ppl reduction in fuel duty announced by former Chancellor Rishi Sunak earlier in 2022 “made little difference,” and the Association notes that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on many coach operators leaves them unable to absorb increasing diesel prices. UKCOA Managing Director Peter Bradley says that the 15ppl rebate it is calling for would ideally be in addition to the existing temporary 5ppl duty reduction.
In asking MPs to support UKCOA’s call to Mr Zahawi, the Association suggests that the 15ppl duty rebate for coaches working scheduled services should be in place while the cost of fuel is above a defined level and that it could be flexed as prices fluctuate above that threshold.
PSVAR defines a scheduled service as one that carries passengers at separate fares, operates along a specified route at specified times and with passengers being taken up and set down at pre-determined points. Tours are not within the scope of that definition.