June 13 2024

The shock early election call means government business is quiet, but the industry needs to keep campaigning say CPT CEO Graham Vidler.

Rumours came and went several times over recent months around Westminster and across Whitehall, but Rishi Sunak’s decision to call the General Election on 4 July still took many people by surprise.

CPT (Confederation of Passenger Transport) has however been preparing for a good while, not least by launching its manifestos for bus and coach back in January after careful consultation with members. It has also wasted no opportunity since then to hammer home the key messages set out in each of those key documents. In case you are not already familiar with CPT’s priorities for the next Government Access All Areas sets out how it can help unleash the full potential of the UK’s coach network, while Driving Britain Forward outlines what is required to unlock the economic, net zero and social wellbeing potential of a better bus network.

While the business of government is largely paused, the business of influencing government on members’ behalf never stops. That is why CPT submitted evidence at the start of June to the Gov’ts recent consultation on proposals to relax the rules relating to age limits for under 20-year-old bus and coach drivers (and the need to have a provisional license before undertaking off road training modules). This consultation came about as direct response to the driver shortage data CPT began collecting in 2021and the driver shortage summit held in late 2022. We do not expect further progress until a new Government is in place, but CPT will take the earliest opportunity to ensure incoming ministers understand fully the challenges the PSV sectors face around continued recruitment of new drivers, and the demographic challenge affecting coach operators.

To further inform our engagement with the next UK government CPT has also been working at pace in recent weeks to make sure we have robust evidence on economic benefits of investing in and unlocking the potential of bus and coach. CPT has now commissioned bespoke research on this topic which is being undertaken by KPMG and is likely to be published later in summer.

CPT has been briefing and engaging with shadow ministers and prospective parliamentary candidates throughout 2024, to help ensure the next government fully understands how it can support bus and coach in ways that best deliver their party’s policy priorities, and that CPT’s wider activities have good visibility among well informed advocates of all stripes on the backbenches in the next Parliament.   With electioneering now fully underway CPT has begun to ramp up its communications work to help our manifesto ‘asks’ cut through in key debates wherever possible. Sadly, Route One’s paper edition for July had to go to press before the various party manifestos were published, but I hope by the time you read this you may have read about CPT’s responses to those in other coverage.  

In the meantime, the dissolution of Parliament means there are not currently any MPs at Westminster, but this does not mean that you cannot engage pro-actively with candidates in your area and the policies they are debating.  In anticipation that many CPT members will want to do this  through events and visits, may need to respond to comments in the press or may need to field direct enquiries from the media, CPT has also prepared an information toolkit setting out key points and arguments to use when advocating for the importance of bus and coach during the election campaign. Where operators need more information and support bespoke to their local area, CPT’s central team also stands ready and available to assist.  

The central message we all need to put across is the simple truth that we all gain whenever someone catches the bus or takes a coach, and our next government needs a bold national strategy to encourage and enable many more people to do this and do so far more often.


First published in Route One Magazine, 13 June 2024