Bus and coach industry calls on Minister Mallon to improve financial support

The chief of the body representing Northern Ireland’s leading bus and coach operators has hit out at inadequate Covid support for the sector.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 5:00 pm
Karen Magill, Chief Executive of Bus and Coach NI

Karen Magill, CEO of Bus and Coach NI, said that since 2020, £2.4m in support was given to 94 operators, leaving more than 100 operators without any financial support due to ‘ineligibility’ for the scheme.

She also criticised Department for Infrastructure officials for their portrayal of the sector during a meeting of the Assembly’s Infrastructure Committee last week, in which they suggested that the industry is hiding from scrutiny.

The organisation fears that Northern Ireland coach operators will go out of business at a time when the Executive is publishing a road map to economic recovery.

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Bus and Coach NI is calling on the Minister to fix the scheme so that jobs and livelihoods are not put at risk or have a knock-on effect onto other industries.

Karen Magill, chief executive of Bus and Coach NI, said: “Time is running out to save our industry.

“Financial support provided by the Department of Infrastructure is simply not adequate to save thousands of jobs and an industry that is vital to Northern Ireland’s economic recovery.

“It is not acceptable that half of bus and coach operators were not eligible for the scheme, with only 44% receiving £2.4m between them.

“Surely this demonstrates that the scheme is just not fit for purpose.”

She also expressed the negative impact would have on the local community and tourism industry: “The loss of coach providers will have a significant knock-on effect – without these coaches how will children travel to school?

“How will visitors and customers who rely on us to travel to hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions make their way?

“Reduced numbers of operators and vehicles will have a negative impact on the wider tourism and hospitality industry when the Executive is publishing a road map to economic recovery post Covid-19.

“Comments that were made at the Committee for Infrastructure also shows that there is a lack of understanding of the industry and a lack of inclination to fix the problem. We urgently need the Department to fix this scheme so that it keeps jobs safe until our industry can begin to operate again.”

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