Coach operators lend a hand
Despite problems of their own (see Coaching Industry in Crisis), many coach operators around the country have offered help and encouragement to health workers and vulnerable people during the coronavirus crisis.
Bakers Dolphin of Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, has closed its outlets in Weston and Bristol, whilst continuing to take future holiday bookings online. Meanwhile, whilst national and international leisure travel is suspended, 20 of their coach drivers have retrained as ambulance drivers for the NHS in Bristol. Other Bakers Dolphin drivers are providing school coaches for the children of key workers.
Bakers Dolphin Managing Director Max Fletcher said:
‘With all international and UK travel in lockdown, we have 50 drivers with no work and a business with very little income. Bristol Ambulance need experienced drivers to support them as they expect demand to increase over the forthcoming weeks. We set up a straight-forward agreement where we retain the drivers as employees and Bristol Ambulance have a contract with us to supply them.
Like most other businesses we are looking at ways that we can get through this and to retain and support our employees so that they can come back to work with us when this is all over. Our business is over 100 years old and helped out in wars in the past providing transport, so this is another chapter in our history.’
During the lockdown, North Wales coach operator Alpine Travel has refocused its activities towards supporting its local community. It is running a free community transport service to enable vulnerable local people to access shops to purchase vital supplies and pick up prescriptions.
The management team initially offered this service to their holiday customers but found that the news spread – with an enormous number of enquiries for their help. They are now making 600-700 deliveries per week to socially-excluded and vulnerable people in the area.
Edwards Coaches in south Wales showed its support for the Royal Glamorgan Hospital recently when they took part in the weekly Clap for Carers. Nine coaches and buses, including the Red Dragon coach which is used by the Wales rugby team, arrived at the hospital with Edwards staff to show their appreciation. The company has also been offering all NHS staff free travel during the coronavirus crisis.
Maynes Coaches, who operate out of three depots in Moray and the Orkney Islands, has completed what it believes is one of the longest key worker transfers by coach with a trip from Aberdeen to Falmouth!
Maynes Coaches reports:
‘We were called in again to return to Falmouth to ensure key workers were able to come back to Scotland over the weekend. The passengers were transported at a safe social distance, with full sanitation kit provided aboard to ensure the coach was fully sanitised and continued to be kept sanitised in the progress of the journey north. On return to our depot the vehicle was fully valeted and sanitised followed by a full viral fog solution, to ensure the vehicle was ready for its next call.’
Clarke’s Travel near Birmingham, which usually specialises in trips for schools and holiday-makers, has been delivering up to 250 food parcels a day to vulnerable people in the local area.
Owner James Clarke, who said he had lost his own step-father to Covid-19 and pneumonia earlier this month, said he and his wife had been inspired to do ‘something for the community’.
They are working with South Birmingham Community Food Hub, which receives surplus food from supermarkets like Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, to pass on to those in need. Other coach companies in the area are also helping out, one supplying fuel, and another lending a van.
Mr Clarke estimated his firm had lost £25,000 of business since lockdown measures were introduced. Because it is only two years old, he said it was not eligible for government support.