Tring coach company calls for government support during coronavirus pandemic

Masons Coach Hire provide group transport for day trips, schools, airports, weddings and much more

Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 4:11 pm

A coach company in Tring is raising awareness of a national campaign to get coach company's recognised as part of the leisure industry, to help it survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Masons Minibus and Coach Hire Ltd is supporting the 'Back Britain's Coaches' campaign by Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) which calls on the Government to provide support for the coach industry during the coronavirus crisis.

Masons Mini bus and Coach hire Ltd, is a family business founded by Andy Mason in 1988, his son's James and Matt and James' wife Candice are all involved in the running of the company.

Masons Minibus and Coach Hire Ltd is supporting the 'Back Britain's Coaches' campaign

They run multi centre domestic and international tours; organise day trips to UK destinations, theme parks, historic towns, cities and beauty spots; offer bespoke packages for sporting events and cultural experiences; and take private hire bookings.

With the lockdown suspending all business until further notice the company is struggling to survive and is calling on the government to recognise coach companies as part of the leisure industry.

Back Britain’s Coaches has two aims:

- The publication of formal government guidance to support the Local Government Association’s view that coach operators should be considered leisure businesses, which would help them to access the Covid-19 business rates and grant schemes.

Masons Coach on one of the trips

- Alongside ABTA securing an amendment to the Package Travel Regulations to allow coach operators longer than 14 days to process refunds and to issue refund credit notes as an alternative to cash refunds.

Candice said: "As a business we are facing massive challenges, our business, like many others has been left in a devastating state due to Covid-19.

"The main thing at the moment is supporting the CPT campaign, they are working really hard to get coach companies recognised as part of the leisure industry.

"That will allow us to get the grant and keep the business going, it will also give us on going support for the company, as it looks like coaches and the leisure industry will be one of the last to reopen.

"We had a growing and successful business prior to this and we had a hugely growing and successful day trips, excursions and holiday programme that was and still is heavily supported by the local community.

"Not only do we run our own day trips and holidays but we have ten vehicles which conduct private hire work, where by people and schools book us for their leisure requirements.

"In Hemel, we had great support from the community, on the day trips and holidays we would have one coach for Hemel and then another for Tring, Leighton Buzzard and the villages.

"We have a great customer base and they are so loyal, many of them have not asked for a refund, just a transfer to when they are able to travel again.

"In addition we have been actively encouraged by the local authority to develop our school routes into commercial routes, moving away from county council school contracts, as a result we are not entitled to receive any financial support from the local authority, leaving us in an incredibly disadvantaged position and currently, we owe over £180,000 in refunds to school parents.

"The figure we are going to need is between £300,000 and £550,000, this amount is very much dependant on the process of the opening of lock down.

"The £10,000 business grant is a great help but it actually doesn't go that far."

Candice said when the lockdown was announced the company lost £200,000 in the first three days, which could go up to £500,00 by the end of July.

She added: "With a huge majority of our customers being over 70 and in the vulnerable category we are concerned they will not be wanting to travel anywhere for some months.

"We need a minimum of 25 passengers on each trip to cover our costs, so social distancing will not be a viable option for us.

"If we do not get our business to where it was by the beginning of next year, we will not make it.

"We really need our local community's support and I know we will not be the only coach company in the county with this challenge.

"We just want to be recognised as part of the leisure industry and get financial support from the government."

The CPT continues to work with coach operators to determine the amount of financial support needed to help the industry and make the case for coach specific support to government.

Graham Vidler, from CPT, said: "At this hugely difficult time, CPT is working with members across the country to 'Back Britain’s Coaches'.

"To help shape the campaign, CPT has worked with coach operators across the UK to find out what support they need during this crisis, and will work with Governments across the UK to secure support for the industry.

"Anyone who would like to find out more about the campaign and how they can support it can visit the resource centre on the CPT website, which will include social media graphics people can share on their social media accounts to raise awareness of the campaign.

"CPT members will also be able to find resources they can use to contact their local authority to access support that is already available. Once the Covid-19 outbreak is over we will all need to work together to repair the damage done to our local economies.

"If we want to bring tourists back into our local areas, get people back in our theatres, shops, restaurants, cafes and bars, reinstate educational trips and help those who have been forced to spend a considerable length of time in isolation get back out and about, not to mention get people back to school and work, it is vital that coach businesses have the financial support to withstand the current crisis."

Candice wrote a letter to Greg Smith MP for Buckingham, calling for his support in getting coach companies recognised as part of the leisure industry.

Greg said: “I have been working with Masons Coaches, and other coach companies in my constituency, to lobby the government for additional support for this sector.

"Once the Covid-19 outbreak is over, we will all need to work together to get the economy moving again.

"If we want to re-boot tourism, get people back in our theatres, shops, restaurants, cafes and bars, reinstate educational trips and help those who have been forced to spend a considerable length of time in isolation get back out and about, not to mention get pupils back to school, it is vital that coach businesses have the financial support to withstand the current crisis."

For more about the confederation of passenger transport's campaign, www.movingforwardtogether.uk/latest-news/cpt-recap-back-britain-s-coaches.

For more information about Masons Coach Hire, click here.