As a ‘Green’ orientated Transport Minister, Eamon Ryan TD should be careful what he wishes for, he may have everybody cycling and walking sooner than he expects. As Government delays with real assistance to the bus and coach industry will lead to the depletion of private bus operators meaning less options for commuters, tourists together with other groups trying to reduce their carbon footprint.
The Coach Tourism & Transport Council (CTTC), the representative body for private bus and coach operators, has made a submission to the Special Oireachtas Committee on COVID-19 Response, which contained details of the profound impact the pandemic is having on the sector. The submission, furnished yesterday to the Committee Chair, Michael McNamara TD, also contains a number of urgent recommendations that Government should implement in order to avoid the significant depletion of private operators and skilled workers. The Special Oireachtas Committee on COVID-19 Response was established to consider and take evidence on the State’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The CTTC’s membership are leading providers of private scheduled services, international tours, school transport and private hire. In its submission to the Committee, the CTTC has requested the following:
o A financial support package of €32 million for coach tourism and private hire operators
o A subsidy of €1.35 to €2.40 per vehicle km travelled for scheduled services which compares favourably to the subsidy payment to Bus Eireann PSO services of €3.56 per vehicle km and to Dublin Bus of €5.90 per vehicle km
o Parity of tax practices between Ireland and Northern Ireland which will allow the sector claim VAT which will remove the competitive advantage operators in the North currently enjoy
o Restoration of the fuel rebate to pre-2009 levels
o A loan moratorium until incomes reach 80% of pre-crisis levels
As part of the CTTC’s submission, the representative body has also reiterated its calls for the detailed supports contained in their recent report on the Assessment of the Covid-19 issues facing the Private Bus & Coach Sector in Ireland by economist Jim Power.
Commenting on the submission John Halpenny, Chairman of the CTTC, said: “It is crucial for Government to fully understand the unprecedented impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on private bus and coach operators. While we fully acknowledge our sector is not unique, the reality is buses move Ireland and they are a vital cog in generating Ireland’s economic activity. Our sustainable transport providers get people to work, school and move two million tourists around the country annually. For these reasons, everything must be done to offset the very real possibility of some operators closing permanently because a reduced supply will have dire knock-on effects.”
“To date, we are broadly out of kilter with many of our European counterparts who are back operating and being meaningfully supported by their Governments. Many have had the benefit of targeted rescue packages, direct income supports and less onerous travel restrictions. While financial supports are an important aspect, it is also vital that we restore passenger confidence and Government and State Agencies need to express their support for the use of public transport as a safe and efficient way of moving people around the country. Calls to avoid public transport should cease and energies directed instead towards achieving compliance in the use of facemasks and sanitisers on public transport”.
“Our members are committed to maintaining employment, driving standards and transporting people safely but we need direct help with liquidity and cash flow. The July Stimulus Plan provides an opportunity for the State to demonstrate its commitment to private bus and coach operators who collectively move 70 million passengers around the country on an annual basis.”