NAT Group discontinues overseas operations
NAT Group has announced it has discontinued its overseas operations with immediate effect. The move is due to the ban on international travel introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The South Wales-based operator is now to focus all of its efforts on running high-quality bus services and private hire throughout the UK. The company will be voluntarily amending its operator’s license to a standard national version. All its UK services are unaffected by this decision.
NAT Group MD, Adam Keen, said: “Following the latest Government guidelines that foreign holidays are unlikely for the remainder of 2020, along with increasingly stringent social distancing measures being placed on transport operators, NAT Group has taken the decision to cease our international work with immediate effect.
“The current pandemic is a huge factor in this decision, but our coach commitments on the continent are extremely time-consuming and expensive to maintain, and we feel our attention would be better served focusing on the core business of running bus services in South Wales and private hire in the UK only. We can concentrate our efforts on making sure that we provide well presented vehicles and a friendly, efficient and memorable service for our customers.
“Rather than seeing this as an end, we very much view it as an exciting new chapter that allows us to focus on what we do well and, particularly in these everchanging times, ensure our fleet matches demand, which includes investing in some alternative vehicles. We have informed our employees of this decision and have reassured all those involved that there is a job here for them.”
NAT Group has been running reduced services since the ‘Stay at Home’ message was first announced in March, as well as free travel for key workers and a contactless payment system. It was also one of the first operators in the UK to introduce a temporary ‘no cash’ policy. Now carrying around 9% of the passengers it would normally carry, NAT Group reports seeing an extremely sharp drop in passenger numbers in late March, with passenger numbers remaining largely flat thereafter, with a slight increase starting around two weeks ago.
NAT Group has limited seats available on each journey to ensure passengers can easily socially distance and is considering a number of further measures including increased signage and physical seat restrictions. In addition to the temporary protective driver screens that were fitted by the company some weeks ago, the company is also now considering specifying adjustable protective screens on any new vehicles purchased.
However, Adam Keen has warned that the new restrictions are putting huge financial pressures on the sector. Adam said: “The safety of our customers and staff will always be our priority and we are complying with all requirements the government has asked of us, however, it has been incredibly hard to get hold of PPE, with many bulk orders understandably being diverted to the NHS. Social distancing will mean much lower passenger numbers and a lightly loaded bus is generally loss-making for the company. Putting more buses on to cope with additional passenger numbers is going to be very difficult financially. We, and other operators, are now in regular discussions with Welsh Government officials to try and secure stimulus funding to support us through this very difficult period of time. While we have been able to continue to provide our essential service up to now, but the most difficult period is still to come, and funding for the recovery will be crucial.”