Coaches from across our region joined a pilgrimage to parliament this morning, in protest at a lack of support for travel companies, as they try to start up again following lockdown. Coach businesses say their contribution to the tourism industry has been forgotten and they need help from government, to stop the wheels from coming off their businesses. The Honk for Hope campaign was organised after ministers rejected a proposal for financial help.
Bosses at Lodge coaches in Chelmsford in Essex believe they'll struggle to survive once the furlough scheme ends in October. One of their coaches joined hundreds of others in the convoy to protest the lack of support from the Government.
Excursions and holidays since lockdown- we've lost everything. We had some contracts for cruise line work, that was obviously cancelled. We had a contract with the National Citizen's Service that got cancelled. Our foreign students that arrive every year they all cancelled, along with our private hire and our own holiday programme and day excursions.
Click on the video below to hear more from Robert Lodge on the financial impact of Covid, the furlough scheme, and what the coach industry needs from the Government:
Other coach companies in the region are also eager to get business back. Roger Bull owns RB Travel in Kettering. He's been shielding and his staff have been on furlough, although some of them are beginning to return. He wants the coach industry to be recognised as part of the tourism and leisure industry.
The last four months have been rather traumatic at times because I'm socially isolating at home and so my son in law has had to do various things for us but I've been having to negotiate with finance houses, with our insurance company, and various things like that to make sure that the company I've built up is still going to be here. I'm very determined to make sure we're going to survive.
I think in some cases we're still classed as bus, and buses predominantly stage carriage service and I think we haven't been recognised in the tourist industry which we are, you know we're predominantly tourist.
Several coach companies have had to make changes to the way they operate in order to try and get some business back.
We've got a seating plan, national express were the pioneers because they started again the 1st July. What they're doing is they're putting all couples down one side of the coach in twos and then on the other side single people to try and get the maximum because when it was 2 metres we were probably down to 13 or 14 people on a 49 seater coach but now we're up to 26-30.