This afternoon I was selected to speak in the debate on the future of the Coach Industry.
The Coach Industry is a vital part of our society. Whether it be taking school children on their first school trip, coach holidays and day trips, transporting wedding guests from venue to venue, or being a rail replacement service. It is overlooked how important the coach industry is and what an important role it will play in our country’s future as we exit the pandemic.
I have spoken with Anthony’s Travel in Halton and they have told me of how the coach industry feels excluded and particularly when determining which sector they fall into. I know that Anthony’s Travel speaks for others in the industry when they tell me that the support they have received has been insufficient.
Yes, the furlough scheme was welcomed and did help the industry, but other than that they have not been given any extra sector specific support. It seems that the coach industry falls into a grey area between the transport and leisure sectors. No one in government seems to be brave enough to make a decision when it comes to defining the coach industry. Why is a viable and vital industry not being given the sufficient support? The industry provides good jobs for people. Whether it be the drivers, or the office staff, these jobs are viable when people are allowed to travel and attend events.
The Confederation of Passenger Transport has calculated that 27,000 jobs and 4 out of 10 coach operators could be lost from the industry by April 2021. This is a damning indictment of a government failing to support the British people, especially those with jobs that would otherwise be viable.
With the Health Secretary boasting on Tuesday that he has already booked his Cornwall holiday for summer, we can assume that we will be likely be back to normal by then. So, why is there no help for the Coach Industry to see them through to summer? Plenty of events will take place in summer to help the industry bounce back.
Furthermore, many jobs from other sectors depend on the Coach Industry. People who work at service stations, petrol stations and tourist destinations depend on the custom of people passing through on coaches. The trickle-down effect of an unsupported Coach Industry would have huge implications for the economy. It is not just these other industries, but leisure industries, sporting events, music festivals and concerts that will lose out on custom when people cannot travel on coaches as supply will not meet demand.
Let us not forget coach holidays, too. Many older people take their holiday on a coach trip to seaside resorts in this country. This is important for older people, it gives them something to look forward to, where they meet new people and eases loneliness that some may feel. It would be wrong to take that away from people.
The total mileage by coaches has dropped by 90% this year compared to last year. This obviously has terrible economic effects for the industry. Any industry that suffers this kind of drop in business would struggle. This is why the industry needs support. Last year there was around 130 million miles driven by coaches, showing how viable this industry will be when we return to normal.
It is clear that the lack of support in the short term will have lasting and damaging long term effects on the Coach Industry. I urge the government to act now before we see more viable and good jobs lost in an industry that will get the country moving again as we finally escape from this crisis. You can watch what I said today on the below video link.