The parlous state of the coach tourism sector has been brought into sharp focus by the recent events organised by Honk for Hope UK. The gatherings in Lightwater, Blackpool, London and Edinburgh represent an impressive show of solidarity and reflect the fact that the coach industry is a close-knit community with a strong sense of mutual aid in times of need.
The organisers of the Honk for Hope events are fully aware of the challenge in getting direct government support for the sector, but they see it as the only hope for its survival given the devastating impact of the lockdown.
The crunch is now coming with a vengeance. Repayments on finance agreements are putting huge strain on businesses which have not been getting any income for months, and in many cases haemorrhaging cash in the form of customer refunds. Repossession of coaches is already underway, although the lenders are likely to realise very low values in a second-hand coach market which is on the floor.
CPT has now presented a fresh set of proposals to the Department for Transport, having had its earlier call for a £65million a month payment for coach operators rebuffed by ministers. The trade body’s new plan focuses on the finance repayment crisis by calling for 12 months’ breathing space for operators and an end to the calling-in of personal guarantees which could lead to business owners’ homes being repossessed.
The analysis presented by CPT is stark, with estimates of up to 41 per cent of coach businesses collapsing by the spring if there is no support forthcoming. It has highlighted the challenge that this will bring for the government in providing enough vehicles for home-to-school transport in the autumn term and is hoping this will get their attention.
The rest of the sector is hoping that they are right, and that this time there will be a positive response.