Coach operators in Eden are experiencing mixed fortunes during the coronavirus pandemic, with a bleak future predicted in an alarming state of the industry survey.
According to the Confederation of Passenger Transport, more than 1,000 family-run coach business across the UK face being forced into bankruptcy and having their vehicles repossessed because of the crisis.
The trade body survey says that since March close to 100 coach businesses have gone into administration and many more are on the brink as demand for their services has “almost totally collapsed.”
The confederation’s chief executive Graham Vidler says more than 24,000 people employed in the industry could be out of a job by April 2021 if financial help for the sector is not forthcoming from the government.
Barbara Holmes, who runs Alba Travel, at Great Salkeld, with her husband Allan, said that the best description to describe their situation was that they were ‘hanging on in there’.
“We are disappointed that we have had no Government backing because they have backed service buses but not our sector at all,” she said.
Mrs Holmes said that all coach tours have now ended and the business, which employs around 14 people, was surviving through shrewd management.
“We have got school contracts, which are obviously helping, and we are running some local football coaches,” said Mrs Holmes, whose sons Michael and Garry also work for the family business which was set up in 2002.
“We are doing our forward planning and working closely with the people we employ.
“They know where we are in the game and we hope to get to the end of the year, but who knows?”
She said that as soon as lockdown was announced people started cancelling.
“People have postponed and moved weddings into the following year and some into 2022,” said Mrs Holmes.
“It’s a bit of a rolling stone at the moment.”
There was a slightly brighter outlook from Colin Titterington, who runs Titterington Holidays, in Corn Market, Penrith.
He said the company has been running a limited number of coach tours since the end of August under the Visit England Good to Go scheme.
“We are running at around 50 per cent,” said Mr Titterington.
“All our coaches are running with reduced numbers and social distancing on board and our partner hotels are having to adhere to the latest government guidelines.
“There are a lot of lockdown restrictions in place in some areas at the moment, like in Wales, and some of the attractions are closed,” said Mr Titterington.
“It is quite challenging at the moment but we are operating, which is the main thing.
“We have got tours at the minute going to the Isle of Wight, the Wye Valley and the Scottish Highlands and have had the first tour out to the Outer Hebrides in September.”
The business also took the first group from the UK since March to the Fermanagh Lakelands where their tour took them to the Blessingbourne Country House Estate, Belleek Pottery and the Ulster Folk Museum.
“Everywhere we went the group was met with open arms and thanked,” said Mr Titterington.