Here’s to 2019

It’s been an eventful year, both in the industry and at Bus and Coach Buyer, and there’s the prospect of a 2019 that will keep everyone on their toes.

2018 both began and ended, for me, with the deeply saddening loss of good friends. We lost Alan White of Midis to Midis in January and, just before Christmas, Chris Wales, who co-founded Coach Tourism Association (and much more besides), left another gap in our lives.

Throughout the year, coach operators have had the ULEZ in London on their minds, plus Clean Air Zones which spill out into provincial towns and cities. Yes, of course, bus operators are at the vanguard re-fleeting with Euro VI vehicles, but at least there’s n economy of scale, as all of their business will be generated within the zones proposed.

For coach operators, the situation all year has been amorphous, with rules for certification which are largely unworkable with such a varied fleet, and the double whammy of reducing residuals for Euro Vs and the prospect of £15,000-plus exhaust kits to buy or, for a few, an accelerated fleet replacement.

All of this is against a backdrop of local authorities which still seem to be struggling with the concept of per-passenger emissions which – even for Euro V coaches – beat car emissions into a cocked hat. Yet still, fear of the car driver backlash is stifling what must, inevitably, happen; urban areas closed to all but essential car traffic.

The ULEZ in April ushers in this brave new world, and we predict that Mayor Khan will quickly discover that the mix of coaches in inner London will be the same. Increased hire rates which reflect Euro VI investment will be price-matched by operators who will simply add the £100 charge to hire rates for older vehicles.

And then there’s Brexit; an omnishambles born of David Cameron’s feckless attempt to retain UKIP voters by casting EU membership into the cauldron of mob rule, instead of putting the question to our Parliamentary Democracy. As I write, the Prime Minister is threatened with eviction from No 10, against a clamour for a second referendum. No matter which side of the debate you’re on, this has been a divisive and unedifying spectacle.

Like all businesses, coach operators are left high and dry by indecision. Over the decades, though, our readers have shown how resilient they are; whether or not journeys abroad are under the Interbus agreement – or whether the market for European travel exists at all – the market will re-assess, regroup and carry on. I tip my cap to all of you.

Returning to this industry in June 2017 after 15 years doing other things has been like having a beery reunion with an old friend. This is still a fantastic, enervating market rammed with wonderful characters who very often put people ahead of profit. With the summer’s magazine redesign and some very hard work, my team here at B&CB has tried to make the magazine more relevant to you, and fill it with more of the features you like.

As the year progressed, in moments of reflection, I tried to take a step back and see what the future holds. It doesn’t seem too bad. There is now an entire generation of young people in cities who have no intention of buying a car. For those that do, running one will become both expensive and difficult.

Though we have issues with low-emission zones, they will favour buses and will push the quality of public transport higher. They may well foster a greater use and understanding of public transport, and that can only be helpful.

2019 will be as challenging as every year. At B&CB, we have big plans which will meet our own challenges and, along the way, create even better magazines for you. Thanks for sticking with us so far. Have a Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years.

Mark Williams

Group Editor

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