More Investment for Coaches is Needed - RHA
RHA Operations Manager for Coaches Andy Warrender told Route One more public investment needs to go into the coach sector.
Andy told Route One how the government needs to recognise the value of coaches to the public and wider industry with support in meeting rising costs, decarbonisation and accessibility regulations.
“Ever since I’ve been in this industry, every year something has come along that has cost the industry and, all too often, has never been recouped,” listing tachographs, emissions standards and seat belts as examples.
“These have always been costs that have been difficult but nonetheless manageable. But the levels of investment that are going to be required to support zero-emissions in future are way, way above anything that we’ve ever seen.”
He adds that debt accumulated by many coach businesses during the pandemic means the industry is “not in an extremely healthy place” and will need outside investment to facilitate future decarbonisation goals. “If we look forward to where the industry has got to go, we’re looking at decarbonising, we’re looking at the infrastructure that has got to support it, both in depot and on the road, and in the vehicles themselves. Nobody’s really sure where things are going to go with it.
“We’re into what I would say is probably the second generation of plug-in electric coaches, which still are only going to be capable of maybe 25-30% of what the industry does. That will improve but there will be a cost towards that which ultimately is going to have to be met. The investment is going to be very difficult to find within the industry if businesses are still heavily laden with debt."
Referring to wider costs, he adds: “Cost pressures overall have put a lot of stress on the industry. The cost of vehicles is up, in some cases over 30% over three years. Wage costs are increasing. The price even of things like spare parts is increasing again, quite dramatically.”
RHA Policy Lead for the Environment and Vehicles recently called for a fuel duty rebate on HVO fuel to help commercial vehicles meet net zero targets.
Andy then told Route One of the disappointment the coach industry feels “It’s a shame that the rest of the transport industry as a whole hasn’t really seen anything I would say is forward investment from what’s been saved on HS2. I think that’s a missed opportunity."
The RHA has opened calls for road investment following the cancellation of HS2.
“The coach sector supports British industry, tourism, education, the leisure sector, so it’s disappointing the government hasn’t yet recognised that.”