2020 recap: A year in review 23/12/2020

In our final blog of the year, our Chief Executive Graham Vidler recaps the work CPT along with our bus, coach and supplier members have done throughout the year, from raising the profile of the coach industry to securing funding for essential bus services, with a look to the future and some of his hopes for 2021.

My year started with a trip to the Irizar HQ in San Sebastian and a chance to spend some time with several of our committed supplier and operator members. As we approach the end of this uniquely-challenging year it’s hard to imagine that was also 2020.

But while Covid-19 has dominated our lives for most of the year, it has also facilitated greater collaborative working across the bus and coach industries. The industry proved that it was dynamic as it adapted to change and we have worked more closely than ever with our members. Zoom calls have become a staple of the working day and have given our members invaluable access to the CPT team and key partners to stay up to date with the latest industry developments and a chance to share best practice and advice. Our expert operations team have been on hand throughout the year, handling over 6,500 operational enquiries and giving members more than 200 vital operational updates – the daily flow of information necessary to keep businesses running in this extraordinary year.

Coach operators played a crucial role keeping people moving, by putting on tailored services for key workers as well as helping their local communities through numerous voluntary delivery schemes. In April we launched the Back Britain’s Coaches campaign, with resources that meant operators could lobby their local MPs for support, highlight the industry’s plight on social media, and sign important letters including to the Chancellor. We also secured national and local media coverage for CPT and our members including interviews on BBC Breakfast, Sky News and LBC, and pieces in The Telegraph, Financial Times and The Guardian.

Never before has government been so aware of the coach industry and the many vital roles it performs. Thanks to our coach operator members and their willingness to complete numerous surveys, we have managed to gather data that helps us to make the case for coach and present compelling case studies to ministers. The hard work and campaigning from operators and the CPT team has both raised the industry’s profile and secured some of the support the industry deserves. When schools across the nations closed at the start of the pandemic, we secured vital financial support for coach operators who ran home to school services, and when schools reopened further funding was provided to make sure dedicated home to school services could run. The recent announcement of up to £6 million of support for Scottish coach operators to help them through the winter - while not enough - is testimony to the tenacity of CPT Scotland in seeking support which the industry would not otherwise have had. In England we ended the year with over 250 members reiterating the need for support following a debate in Westminster on the future of the coach industry with MPs from across the country speaking up for the industry.

We will build on the raised profile of the coach industry in 2021, starting the new year with a renewed drive for a clear settlement on PSVAR and updating the Coach Strategy we were ready to publish back in March.

With passenger numbers plummeting due to a nationwide lockdown, we secured financial support for bus operators in England, Wales and Scotland to keep services running for key workers and essential journeys. In England we had CBSSG, in Wales the Bus Hardship Fund and later Bus Emergency Scheme, and the Covid-19 Support Grant in Scotland. Thanks to this funding people who relied on the bus could continue to make their essential journeys.

Although government initially advised against any use of public transport due to misconceptions that it was unsafe, we campaigned hard for this to be changed, reflecting the investment operators made to keep passengers safe. Looking to 2021, we need the Government to adopt a loud pro-public transport message to bring people back to bus and encourage new travellers.

It was heart-warming to see so many people come together in support for bus and coach workers when we celebrated Bus and Coach Worker Day back in May. We received an overwhelming amount of messages from operators and the public saying their thanks to employees, colleagues, friends and their local bus driver from all corners of the UK.

Moving away from the day to day issues associated with Covid-19, we’ve set the agenda for the future of the bus network with three key documents covering bus priority, green recovery and Recovery Partnerships. Each set out industry’s views for the future of our bus network and how the industry can play its part in the green recovery.

2021 will be just as busy a year for the industry. Our primary focus will be helping our members recover and attract new passengers as we – hopefully - see a gradual release from lockdown conditions. We’ll be publishing our Coach Strategy early in the year, while ensuring the industry’s views are heard loud and clear in governments’ own strategies including the National Bus Strategy for England and the National Transport Strategy in Wales – an early job for our first ever full-time CPT Cymru director, Josh Miles, who will join the CPT team in February. Through our dedicated suppliers committee we will be working closely with our Commercial Partners and supplier members to establish working groups and forums where future industry products and services can be discussed directly with operators.

I hope that 2021 will be a year where I can once again get out and spend time with our members. And I hope that 2021 will provide an environment in which the bus and coach industries can once again flourish and grow. We’ll continue to do everything we can to make that happen.

Merry Christmas and a very happy new year.