At a time of crisis the role of a trade association comes into focus, CTTC members are fortunate that their representatives wasted no time in getting into action to try and protect their industry and livelihoods.
A Report commissioned by the Coach Tourism & Transport Council (CTTC) and compiled by Economist, Jim Power makes for stark reading, it concludes that the passenger transport sector will face decimation without direct Government intervention as passenger numbers fall by 95%. The Coach Tourism & Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC) has called on the Government to provide a bailout for the pandemic ravaged sector as the survival of its members, is “uncertain”. While no bus operator is surprised by the contents of the Report, they will use the contents to lobby Government for a realistic bailout plan. Commenting on the findings, CTTC Chairman John Halpenny said: “Most of our members have not turned a wheel or written an invoice for the last three months, we need help to come back from that and get going again.”
CTTC members are the leading providers of private scheduled services, international tours, school transport and private hire. In total there are 1,721 coach operators in Ireland, carrying over 75 million passengers per year, supporting 11,457 jobs and contributing €400 million to the economy.
Concerned about the drastic impact the coronavirus would have on the sector, the organisation commissioned the Report which contains a number of recommendations for direct Government support and financial assistance.
Some of the key findings in the report include:
- COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on the main areas of activity of the private bus and coach industry since March.
- Turnover has declined 95% which equates to a €586 million loss.
- Without significant assistance from Government, many operators will not survive.
- Market distortion and unfair competition is adversely impacting the sector with public services subsidised by the State and official Government advice that people should stay off buses.
- Regional and rural economies are disproportionately affected as bus and coach operators provide significant regional employment, service the transport needs of rural towns; transport children from rural areas to schools; and transport many tourists to the various attractions all over the country.
The CTTC has called for the recommendations brought forward in the Report to be acted on without delay in order to bring support to the frontline. Among those made include:
- A Financial Support Mechanism based on self-certified turnover for 2019. A subsidy of 17% of a company’s revenue would be claimed by each operator, amounting to a total injection of €32 million over a nine month period. A further €140 million for commercial services should be provided to maintain services at pre-COVID-19 levels.
- Retention of the wage subsidy scheme until 2021 or when turnover returns to 75%.
- Forbearance/moratorium by financial institutions to be extended.
- Recalibration of the Government’s credit guarantee scheme to permit applications for refinancing of loans.
- Clarification of the 2-metre social distancing rule and quarantine requirements subject to health considerations and international best practice.
- That the Department of Education could consider a recommendation on the wearing of face masks in order to increase capacity on school buses.
John Halpenny concluded by saying: “It is clear that the business environment for bus and coach operators will be extremely challenging over the next 18 months with the sector having to deal with reduced capacity due to social distancing, limited international travel as a consequence of quarantining rules and depleted consumer confidence. Sustaining services in the face of the foregoing will prove dreadfully difficult as most routes will be completely unviable which will result in severe disruption to passengers”.