John Pockett: Wales update 22/10/2020
This week’s blog post is an update from CPT Cyrmu Director John Pockett. John recaps the impact of Covid-19 on buses and coaches in Wales, and what might be next for the industries.
The pandemic seems to be causing a new challenge every week for bus and coach operators in Wales, and I thought it was time to give an update on the current state of affairs. At the beginning of March I was criticising the Wales buses bill and urging the Government to invest in bus priority measures, and bus operators in Wales were calling for a fair share of the £5 billion funding announced in the budget for travel in the UK. Just days later, we were contending with a nation-wide lockdown.
The bus and coach industries have been impacted differently by the virus. Buses have received welcome support through the Bus Emergency Fund, but for the coach industry the situation has been much harsher. Although they run coach tours they haven’t been eligible to receive funding available to the rest of the leisure and tourism sectors, which is a huge disappointment to many including CPT. Despite such difficult circumstances, coach operators have gone above and beyond during lockdown to help their local communities, such as Alpine Travel who delivered food and prescriptions to local people shielding. I believe this shows the strength of compassion within the coach industry that isn’t exclusive to Wales, and can in fact be found across the UK.
When lockdown was eased we had a taste of ‘normal’ life (albeit with compulsory face coverings and requirements to stay 2m away from people!), but with rising infection rates, Wales will be entering a circuit break lockdown this Friday. Pubs, restaurants, non-essential shops and some school groups will be closed for two weeks, and our Welsh government are advising only essential travel. There will be £300million to support businesses affected by the lockdown, the finer details of what will be available to bus and coach operators are still to be confirmed but I want to assure readers that CPT will update our members as soon as possible, and are fighting your corner. Email updates are sent out regularly, and we hold fortnightly Zoom sessions that all members are welcome to join.
The bus and coach industries both provide such important services; buses have kept key workers moving and made essential journeys possible, and coach operators have been out volunteering in their local communities and warmly welcomed people back on board for coach tours. This is a difficult and uncertain time for everyone but I’m hopeful that we will get through this pandemic, taking everything in our stride like we have done so far.
On a final note, I encourage members to keep an eye on their inboxes for updates from CPT, and to check the gov.wales website for more on the latest government announcements. Some operators have found the Business Wales website to be a useful resource too as it gives details about funding available – there’ll be a link to the website at the bottom of this page.