Coach and bus trade bodies have issued a mixed response to today’s spring Budget, in which Chancellor Jeremy Hunt froze the fuel duty and maintained the 5p per litre cut.
The industry welcomed news that a rumoured 23% rise in duty did not come to fruition and that the 5ppl relief put in place 12 months ago would be extended for another year.
However, some operators and MPs had been calling for a 15ppl essential user fuel rebate, while those speaking for the industry took the opportunity to call for further long-term help.
Graham Vidler, Chief Executive of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, said in a statement: “The freeze on fuel duty will provide welcome short-term relief to bus and coach operators grappling with rising costs.
“For the longer term, it is vital that bus and coach win their fair share of funding from the new devolved settlements to ensure we can continue to lead the shift to more sustainable transport.
“In the meantime, we are working with the government to deliver for passengers, not just those in areas who have won funding. The sector needs a stable, long-term funding settlement to encourage more people to choose bus and coach over car. This is crucial for the UK’s wealth and health.”
RHA: Government could have gone further
In February, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) issued a plea for a 15ppl essential user fuel rebate for operators of commercial vehicles including coaches. Ahead of today’s statement in Parliament, MPs including Jonathan Gullis, member for Stoke-on-Trent North, and Mark Jenkinson, MP for Workington, supported the RHA’s call for a reduction in fuel duty.
Following the Budget, the RHA’s Director of Public Affairs & Policy, Declan Pang, said: “We are pleased the Chancellor has listened to the RHA and continued the fuel duty freeze and maintained the 5ppl cut brought in 12 months ago. This is something we’ve campaigned for to help reduce costs and control inflation.”
Nevertheless, the body felt Mr Hunt could have gone further as operators continue to battle high operating costs.
Peter Bradley, Managing Director of the UK Coach Operators’ Association, was similarly grateful for the fact that fuel duty wasn’t increased but said he would like to see more acknowledgement from the government of the importance of coaches.
“I’m not surprised there weren’t cuts and I’m grateful for the fact that we still have the fuel duty rebate,” he told routeone.
“Coaches are an incredibly efficient way of moving people around. Without coaches some of those people would travel in private transport. I just wish sometimes there was slightly more recognition and a little extra help for the industry so we have a saving we can pass on and may in time encourage people to book more coach travel.”
UKCOA had also called for a 15ppl rebate last summer, although Mr Bradley conceded fuel prices had since dropped from the record levels seen then.
RHA was among those calling too for the reform of the the Apprenticeship Levy to facilitate greater flexibility in skills training and an extension of the National Skills Funds, but there was no mention in the Budget report of either.