More than 70 North East coaches to head down A1 in call for action from Government
More than 70 coach operators from across the region are to head from the North East in convoy as they call for more support for their industry as the coronavirus crisis eases.
The Honk for Hope UK campaign will see drivers gather at Washington Services today (Wednesday, July 1) and head to Lightwater Valley, setting off in convoy at 9.30am.
Each will beep as they pass under the A690 interchange at Carrville.
It comes as they say they have not been offered the same help as other areas of the travel industry, and while some have used the furlough scheme, it is due to end after the summer, when most make their money.
Among the organisers is Matthew Forsyth, of MJ Forsyth in Blyth, which usually runs 12-day countrywide summer excursions for American and Chinese tourists and rail replacement service work in winter.
He said the collapse of National Holidays, Shearlings and Caledonian Travel early on in the crisis shows how fragile the business can be.
He said: “The Government has given the bus industry money, but nothing to the coach industry in funding and they are still able to run services, while we are private hire, do stag and hens, school contracts and holidays.
“At the moment, finance companies are giving a payment holiday of three months, but it will be six months before the coach industry picks up and they’re not adding it on at the end, they are increasing the monthly payments.
“Some coaches cost £300,000 or £400,000, and they need to be paid off in three to five years, not like a 25-year mortgage.
“We are doing this to get the industry recognised, without having to go to London, but that’s what we’ll do next.”
Among those to take part will be David Dove, of Pallion-based David Dove Travel, which furloughed its seven staff through the Government scheme.
Among the tours it had lined up was student coach holidays to Croatia, which usually kicks off its holiday season in February.
Mr Dove said: “The impact on us has been massive, but the hasn’t helped, we’ve been forgotten about.
“We’re an industry which needs tourism. We smaller companies often work together to support each other.”