Government aid round-up
We’ve rounded up the government aid and advice currently being offered to coach and bus operators. This will be updated as new information becomes available
D4 medical updates
The Government is making temporary provisions for bus and lorry drivers aged 45 and over to forego the need for a D4 medical in order to renew their driving entitlement. These changes are temporary and will only apply where the driver does not have any existing notifiable health conditions, and their licence has not expired before 1 January 2020.
The licence will only be valid for one year instead of five years and the driver will need to submit a completed D4 when the licence is due for renewal in 12 months. Drivers with health issues will still need to declare these, and those with health issues that prevent them from driving safely will not have their licence renewed. All drivers must ensure they are medically fit to drive.
With NHS staff rightly focused on the nationwide response to Coronavirus, these temporary changes will help protect essential supply chains and keep the country moving at this critical time.
Business Rates Relief
When the government first announced its business rates relief scheme, administered by local authorities, in recognised restaurants, bars, clubs and travel businesses as the ‘leisure sector’ and included those businesses. There have been a number of calls for coach companies to be included in this sector. Now, several councils have broken cover and asked coach operators to apply for the relief.
To apply, operators would have to be able to demonstrate that the bulk of their income is from the leisure sector – i.e. coach touring and private hire for leisure – which should be possible for many operators, especially those who separate the own touring operation from the rest of the business.
Operators have been advised to apply for Business Rates Relief via their local authority website when they have done the book work to separate leisure travel from other travel – for example, home-to-school, rail replacement and corporate hire.
Have D4 medicals been suspended?
There have been several reports that an MP has announced that the DVLA has suspended D4 medical checks indefinitely during the pandemic. We will update operators when we have official confirmation of this. However, drivers who are approaching the due date for the D4 medical should apply as normal, and keep correspondence from clinicians, many of whom have suspended routine services. This will provide mitigation should any later enforcement surface, proving the driver has not been negligent in trying to obtain the medical.
LEZ extension to be delayed
TfL has announced a four-month delay in the implementation of the LEZ extension to the M25 boundary. Full details are HERE
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)
UPDATE: The CJRS portal is due to go live at the HMRC by 20 April, with the aim of payments being made on 31 April. We will provide a link when it becomes available.
CJRS has also been made available to salaried directors, though their responsibilities as directors will remain. HMRC will need evidence of salaries paid. Further details will be available when the portal goes live.
More details of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme were released, explaining the circumstances in which employees can be ‘furloughed’ – laid off, with no work, but remaining on payroll.
Employees must have been on PAYE payroll on 19 March (revised from 28 April) 2020 to be eligible for furloughing
Employees who are working but on reduced hours, or for reduced pay, will not be eligible for this scheme. BUT: Employees who were employed on 28 February, and who subsequently prior to 19 March were made redundant or left employment can also qualify for the scheme if they are re-employed by their employer and placed on furlough
Three weeks is the minimum length of time an employee can be furloughed. It is advised that it is unlikely that three weeks on, three weeks off, is unlikely to be a manageable option
A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work or training, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation
Zero hours contracts are included. If the employee’s pay varies, you can claim for average monthly earnings (or the same month’s earning from the previous year)
The DVSA has suspended the need for CPC updates currently, but the agreement of the DVSA is being sought to suspend the licence renewal process, which includes a mediacl. As medicals are unlikely to be available, this will be essential if the industry is to return to strength after the pandemic lockdown is over.
Bus and Coach Buyer will keep you updated with this situation.
The Confederation of Passenger Transport has been working with the DfT to advise local authorities to continue to honour H2S contracts and make payments as if services were continuing until the end of term.
Although this advice has been given, the government expects that operators who get 100% of the payment should continue to pay employees who performed the work, thus those employees would not be eligible for furloughing.
The Senior Traffic Commissioner has advised that evidence of financial standing provided before the onset of the pandemic will be honoured, but that operators who now fall below the threshold should write to the Traffic Commissioner for the area applying for a period of grace, with evidence that in a normal market, the company would be solvent. The period of grace is initially for four months, but may be extended to six months. Applications must also reassure the TC that maintenance of vehicles, including those inactive, is being kept up to date.
Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon. Grant Shapps MP has confirmed that BSOG will continue to be paid on the basis of estimated service levels before the Coronavirus outbreak and will not revise these estimates down where service levels have declined due to its impacts.
The Secretary of State also sought agreement that the concessionary passes will be accepted for travel so that those in need of visiting shops to do so during the periods where they have been specially opened for the elderly and vulnerable. In addition the he has asked that operators maintain levels of service for those essential workers that need to get to places of work, particularly hospitals. In addition that service levels should remain at a point where passengers are not forced to be in close proximity.
The Secretary has written to all English local authorities urging them to continue to make concessionary reimbursement payments at the same levels as before the virus outbreak.
Bus Service Contracts
The government is continuing payments under existing bus service contracts as if the service is running: ‘…I can confirm that the Department will continue to pay Bus Services Operators Grant on the basis of estimated service levels before the coronavirus outbreak and will not revise these estimates down where service levels have declined due to its impacts,” Grant Scahpps wrote last week.
Bus service registrations
Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, has told bus operators that service registrations and cancellations can be made in 24 hours, instead of the current 28 days.
In a letter, he said: “Operators will be able to send applications for temporary variation of services made at short notice, due to the exceptional nature of the situation, to both the Traffic Commissioner and relevant local authority at the same time and include a full timetable. I have asked local authorities to limit the time for consulting them to 24 hours instead of 28 days and fees have been waived for those applications linked to the coronavirus outbreak.”
The Senior Traffic Commissioners have issued a notice explaining how service registrations can be changed at assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/876561/200327_Advice_note.pdf
English operators must still inform their Local Authority, band the LA should confirm receipt of the application within 24 hours. Operators in Scotland should follow the process outlined in a guidance document sent by the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland to operators.