Survival of up to 135 bus and coach operators in Galway threatened

Galway Daily news City Councillor calls for unlimited travel public transport ticket

Up to 135 private bus and coach operators in Galway face an “uncertain” prospect of survival without government intervention the Coach Tourism & Transport Council of Ireland claims.

The CTTC, a representative body for Ireland’s coach touring companies, and private bus operators, has this week published an economic report on the impact of the coronavirus on the sector.

Compiled by economist Jim Power, the report says that since March, turnover for bus and coach operators has declined by 95%, representing a loss of €586 million.

Rural areas have also been disproportionately affected by the downturn it says, as private operators there are responsible for significant amounts of transport in rural towns, as well as school and tourism travel.

Chairman of the CTTC, John Halpenny today said that the bus and coach sector in Ireland is facing an “existential crisis” with many not likely to survive without government intervention.

Operators are threatened by collapsing revenue and depleted reserves he said, as well as a crisis in confidence, with people still deeply cautious due to the pandemic in a way that is unlikely to change quickly.

“It appears certain that without significant assistance and intervention from Government, many operators will simply not survive.”

Among Galway’s most well known private bus operators is GoBus, which has been massively successful in its intercity bus routes, and had also recently launched its first commuter route.

GoBus suspended all services from March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and has yet to announce any plan to resume operations.

However, not all private operators have come to a complete halt. Tuam based Burkes Bus initially suspended all of its commuter routes, but started taking passengers on again from mid May.

As lockdown restrictions have eased, the private operator has been gradually increasing services on its Tuam-Galway and Headford-Galway routes, while others remain suspended.

The CTTC is calling for a government bailout with measures along the lines recommended in the report.

These include a subsidy of up to 17% of a company’s revenue based on 2019 turnover, and a further injection of €140 million into the sector to maintain pre-COVID service levels.

The CTTC is also asking for an extension of both the Wage Subsidy Subsidy Scheme and the moratorium by financial institutions, as well as clarity on social distancing and quarantine guidelines.

There are 1,721 coach operators in Ireland, which support 11,457 jobs between them, and carry over 75 million passengers a year.

“It is clear that the business environment for bus and coach operators will be extremely challenging over the next 18 months with the sector having to deal with reduced capacity due to social distancing, limited international travel as a consequence of quarantining rules and depleted consumer confidence.”

“Our members stand ready to help tourism re-build, run adequate scheduled services, and satisfy the demand for private bus hire but without state support many of them will simply not be around”.