In the UK, Bus & Coach operators have been promised in the region of €167 million to help them get through the current COVID-19 crisis.
Here the Coach Tourism & Transport Council (CTTC) is looking for a similar commitment from the Irish Government. A recent survey of its members provides a flavour of just how bad the passenger transport sector has been hit.
Over half of the operators surveyed, which included non-CTTC members, had already purchased new vehicles this season and a similar number have cancelled some new equipment for later in the season. Worryingly for the future, 70% of operators feel that 2021 will not see the industry back to 2019 levels. Interestingly, there are mixed views on how operators are finding the banks willingness to engage, while 50% say they are very happy so far with the banks co-operation, the other 50% are reserving judgement and replied that they are holding off commenting for the moment. In advance of the results being published, the CTTC has been in contact with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe outlining the serious situation those involved in the bus and coach industry are facing. Outlining a need for immediate, direct, and continuing action from Government if the sector is to be saved, the CTTC has listed four actions for now:
- An interest free moratorium of 12 months on all repayment on capital expenditure and vehicle leasing
- Provision of working capital by the Government to the sector
- A commitment to pay in full the contracted amounts for rural transport and HSE contracts.
- Deregistration of all new coaches registered in the first three months of 2020.
Going back to the operator’s survey, most companies indicated they could survive up to three months. However, they would need all the requested Government assistance for the business to go back to full strength straight away. Of concern also is the amount of money owed to the sector. By averaging the figures given it is fair to say companies are owed in excess of €10 million from corporate and private clients. On asked how the Government can help the sector, suggestions made can be categorised as short term and long term.
Short Term Assistance
- Deregister all vehicles registered in 2020
- Improve wage subsidy scheme
- All current schemes to stay in place for the duration of the crisis
- Full payment for Government contracts
Long Term Assistance
- Interest free loans to help with cash flow in the restart period
- Reduce all fuel tax
- Road tax and toll free period to help companies re start
- Continue to pay staff the pandemic payments until confidence returns to the market
- Allow coach operators reclaim VAT similar to other sectors
- Subsidies to be paid for scheduled services until passenger numbers come back to pre-virus levels
- Coach industry to be includes in any initiative offered to the tourist and hospitality sector
In the coming weeks the CTTC will collate the findings and results of this survey and formulate a more extensive document for its discussions with the different Governmental Departments. Commenting, John Halpenny, CTTC chairman said: “We have some very broad ranging and useful proposals here. Most operators have by now closed their business, what we in the CTTC must do is find ways for them to continue in lockdown mode and then prepare for the big challenge of restarting the industry with as little disruption as possible and with no casualties”