Regional manager recap: Andrew McGuinness on the Northern & Yorkshire regions 17/08/2020

24/06/2020

This week’s blog post has been written by Andrew McGuinness, regional manager for the Northern & Yorkshire region. Andrew has written a recap of how bus and coach operators in this region have been tackling the coronavirus crisis.

If you’d asked me at the beginning of the year what I thought 2020 had in store for the bus and coach industries, my predictions would look very different to the current situation we find ourselves in. In the Northern and Yorkshire region we were preparing for the introduction of Clean Air Zones, looking forward to the launch of the coach strategy, and providing ongoing support to existing and developing bus partnerships.  Despite coronavirus putting these plans on hold, CPT members have been willing to go above and beyond to work with us to highlight the difficulties caused by COVID, and still provide responses on consultations where required.

When it first became clear that we were going to find ourselves in uncharted territory, it was important that as the trade body representing them, CPT was as transparent as possible. Our members needed clear messaging, and to be asked for assistance when needed. Members’ requests for advice and support have been varied, with particular support required when liaising with individual Local Authorities (LAs). LAs have taken varied stances on the availability of localised grant support, the level of support for paused contracted services, and the conditions imposed on operators.  It’s been important to have regular dialogue between operators and LAs to keep communications clear about these issues and to challenge them when necessary. When operators and LAs understand each other’s needs, it is much easier to work together to ensure the survival of the local bus network.

The plight for most coach operators has been longer and more severe with a significant loss in cash flow, but member support for our #BackBritainsCoaches campaign has been high, with members using campaign materials on social media and contacting their local councillors and MPs.  With one eye on the future, I am also liaising with different agencies and businesses in the wider tourism sector as we all share the same issue and the same thirst to get people back onto both coaches and buses, to support the regional and UK economy.

As well as behind the scenes discussions, there have been a fair few appearances from CPT members and staff in the media. Our members have been helping by contacting local media outlets, which has led to me being interviewed on BBC Radio Cumbria and ITV Tyne Tees. Reactions from these interviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and local communities often recognise how important bus and coach services are to keep their communities connected.

In their own ways every operator has gone above and beyond during this crisis, from investing in extensive cleaning regimes to supporting vulnerable communities. Going forward there will be challenges facing us. Social distancing is a key one, but operators have proved that they can adapt, and I know they’ll continue to do so. With air quality improving during lockdown due to fewer cars being on the roads, I believe we have a unique opportunity to make the case for how bus and coach are clean forms of mass transport. I want to thank all our members for their hard work during this exceptionally difficult time, and let them know that I’m here to support them.