Emma Hardy MP continues supporting the coach cause

Bus and Coach Buyer talks to coach industry supporter, Emma Hardy

One of the most vocal MPs fighting for the future of the coach industry in recent months has been Emma Hardy, MP for Hull West and Hessle. Since October last year, Emma has campaigned to gain Government support for the sector.

Despite experiencing a setback in her goal in December when she was told no support was currently imminent, the Labour MP continues to mount pressure for the cause. Emma spoke to Bus and Coach Buyer about her goal and what she will be doing to try to achieve this in 2021.

On why the Government has not so far given sector specific support for coaches, Emma told Bus and Coach Buyer: “Partly because there hasn’t been enough understanding of the differences between buses and coaches. The Government has not decided whether coach falls in leisure and tourism or the essential travel industry; it’s been classified as neither.

“By not having that national presence, they have gone under the radar. I’m trying to rectify that”

“Also, a lot of coach operators are SMEs, so I don’t think they have been able to have a national platform. They have not been able to have the same voice in Parliament as national companies. By not having that national presence, they have gone under the radar. I’m trying to rectify that.”

Emma responded with fresh resolve after the letter she received from John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury and City Minister, notifying her the industry would not receive any further support. In a post on Facebook in response to the letter, Emma said: “After meeting with the Exchequer Secretary, it looks like the government is not prepared to offer any further help to the coach industry at this time. But I shall call for another debate, we will keep going, keep the pressure on and we shall not give up.”

Speaking about the letter, she said: “That letter just before Christmas was a real kick in the teeth. The response was really incredibly disappointing, especially when we were asking for things that would not have cost any extra.”

Among the asks were to grant access to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) for those who have not previously been able to access it and to extend finance payments.

Continuing the fight

Moving forward, how will Emma continue the fight? “We just need to maintain that pressure. We need the support from the industry and we are getting support from MPs. We just have to keep going, it’s just a question of persevering.”

On how operators can help the cause, she said: “Definitely contact your local MP if you haven’t already. The more joined up and united we are, the more affective. Also, look at contacting local councillors to influence access to any discretionary support grants.

“Another thing, and a lot are already doing it, is to use social media and to raise awareness through local media. It is good to get the general public on side, to show that these are local SMEs, businesses that take your children to school. It is getting an awful lot of sympathy from the public.”

She notes the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) has been meeting with the DfT and providing figures on the industry and how the crisis is affecting it. “It’s really useful to have that hard data,” she said.

On how likely the Government will give sector-specific support for the coach industry, she said: “I would like to be optimistic and say they will do eventually. Campaigns like this that are successful tend to have united opinions, so that makes it more likely. It is more likely to gain support when the Government starts to see other nations roll it out, like Scotland and Northern Ireland have. It puts a lot of pressure on to support English companies.

“These local companies are exactly the kind of businesses we should look to support”

“These local companies are exactly the kind of businesses we should look to support. When you give support to national companies, they can relocate. Our local coach company offers jobs to local people.”

Another aspect that is in the coach industry’s favour is the green agenda. Emma said: “There is a need for green transport and coaches can help that.”

Emma added: “How likely we are to succeed depends on how willing we are not to give up. We almost need to embarrass the Government into doing something.”

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