January 21 2024

It is remarkable that in 2024 coaches aren’t given the recognition that they rightly deserve. Here CPT's CEO Graham Vidler outlines the work being done behind the scenes for coach operators. 

On Christmas Day, intercity operators, and their drivers, kept thousands of passengers connected with loved ones, with nearly a thousand services running in the UK, covering tens of thousands of miles. Just a few days later, coaches came to the rescue of thousands of stranded passengers who were affected by the Eurostar cancellations. These are timely examples of how coaches keep communities connected, when they can’t be served by other forms of public transport.  

In addition to intercity travel, it is also important not to forget that private hire companies too, make a massive contribution to UK society. Combined, they add an enormous amount to the UK’s economy (£14bn a year in tourism alone), while also transporting over 600,000 children home to school every single day. It is an astonishing feat, and one that is undertaken without any subsidy from government whatsoever.  

The coach industry is proud to be self-sufficient but engagement from the government can take the power of coach to a whole new level

This is the ideal time for the next government to seize the moment, back this vital component of the UK’s transport system and truly recognise the efforts our coach operators go to day in day out. That’s why the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) is launching our Access All Areas manifesto, which lists our priorities for the next government in order to unleash the full potential of the coach network. We are calling on the government to:  

  1. Issue clear guidance to councils to include coach services in their local transport plans, giving an economic and environmental boost to communities across the country;
  2. View coaches as part of the solution to local air pollution, making it easier for coaches to serve passengers in cities with clean-air zones;
  3. Work with industry on a net-zero strategy for coaches, giving operators the confidence to plan investment in future fleets;
  4. Simplify the legislation on accessible travel, giving disabled passengers a clear and consistent service and operators clarity over vehicle requirements;
  5. Support an industry-led workforce strategy, training the drivers and engineers needed to grow the industry and transition to zero-emission operation.

These calls build upon much work already started by CPT for coach, such as the publication last year of the Zero Emission Coach Taskforce report, our submission to the PSVAR call for evidence, and launch of a comprehensive recruitment and retention best practice guide. And, of course, CPT will continue to fight the sector’s corner when issues arise, for example building upon the work carried out last year to ensure processes at the Port of Dover do not hinder coach travel.  

The coach industry is proud to be self-sufficient but engagement from the government can take the power of coach to a whole new level. With the right support, coaches can connect even more people to more destinations, boosting local economies and minimising the environmental impact of travel. It is about time that this hidden gem of the British public transport mix is brought into the spotlight.  

First published 21 January 2024, Route One magazine.