‘Honk for Hope’ coach campaign rumbles through Chiswick

July 20, 2020/ by Matt Smith

Around 500 coaches were driven through London on Monday 20 July, honking their horns in protest to raise awareness for the plight of the UK’s coach sector.

The campaign, known as ‘Honk for Hope’, involved hundreds of coach companies from across the UK, who carried out an orchestrated honk at midday.

Most of the companies are facing significant financial turmoil due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19.

Requests for Government bailouts are have so far been ignored, they say, meaning many of these family-run small businesses are falling through the safety net which the Government has introduced to help other businesses.

Local residents, initially unaware that the protest was taking place, took to social media to comment about the increase in horn-honking in the area.

“What is going on with the blaring car horns?” asked Rebeckah Atteneye.

“We think it’s a protest for coach drivers” wrote Jamila Brown.

David Sumner Smith, a resident in Grove Park, asked “is annoying local residents and fellow road users the best way to go about it, I wonder?”.

Images above: coaches from around the UK take up an entire lane of traffic along the M4 in west London

‘A last resort’

Images above: Adam Shailes – Managing Director of Red Routemaster, the front of an iconic red routemaster double decker bus

Red Routemaster, which is based in Brentford, was one of many coach companies taking part in the protest.

The company is at risk of up to 40 job losses if the industry does not receive urgent government support.

“This is very much a last resort I cannot stress that enough, in the sense that it’s great that the coaching community has been brought together… but at the same time it should never have happened” the Managing Director, Adam Shailes, told The Chiswick Calendar.

In a video he posted to Twitter, he addressed MPs directly saying:

“What I can say to our elected politicians is that if you’re not listening to us now, you don’t understand what is happening. Please go and investigate because our industry body has been consulting and engaging with you, lobbying our MPs and you just have not listened” he said.

“Back Britain’s coaches to back rebuilding our economy, and that needs to happen now”.

In a separate post, Adam addressed the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, Tfl and several national news outlets, where he described the benefits of the UK coaching sector which is “crying out now for the support that was promised [to them]”.

The video shows coaches queuing along the M4, stretching from Brentford into Chiswick.

‘An essential industry to the country’

Images above: Jenna Rush – Managing Director of North East Coach Travel, the route through central London which coaches followed during the protest.

Jenna Rush is the managing director of North East Coach Travel and was one of the organisers of the protest.

She echoed the statement that the Government has offered no additional financial support for the sector and said that many coaches have already been repossessed and companies have gone into liquidation, the largest example being Shearing’s coaches, which has made 2,500 staff redundant.

Speaking to The Chiswick Calendar, she had this to say:

“It’s just to raise awareness. A lot of coach operators have come together to ask the government for support because of COVID-19”.

“At the minute the Government has basically said to us that there’s no pot of money”.

“But we have got serious serious finance bills that we can’t afford to pay. Especially, with the low-emissions zone in London and the clean air zones that they’re bringing in across the whole of the country, all coach operators have updated their fleets to Euro 6 vehicles”.

Companies have just shelled out on new vehicles to meet requirements of Low Emission Zones

Euro 6 is the name given to a set of limits for harmful exhaust emissions produced by virtually any vehicle powered by petrol or diesel engines.

The Euro 6 standard gained increased importance in 2019 because it contains the criteria with which new ‘ultra-low emission zones’ and ‘clean air zones’ would be enforced.

In these new zones, any diesel car or van that doesn’t meet the Euro 6 requirements will be subject to a daily charge of up to £12.50 when driving in city centres, in an effort to improve air quality.

“Buying the vehicles brand new can be anywhere between a quarter of a million pound and £400,000. So when we’re buying these coaches we are taking on a serious amount of debt and we have to take personal guarantees against them” Jenna said.

“So now we’re sitting back and going ‘we can’t pay this finance’ so finance companies are threatening repossession and if they do and there’s shortfall in the equity… then they’ll come for our houses”.

“We’re not bus companies, bus companies are big. Coach companies are family run businesses, some of them are three and four generations in. But we’re very small fragmented companies throughout the whole of the UK and we wanted to come together to show who we are and that we need some form of government support”.

“I just don’t think people recognise how much coach companies actually do, we do the home-to-school transport, which is an essential transport, if we’re not here how are children going to get to school?”

“How are they going to do their educational visits when they go to, being from Newcastle myself, they might go to Hadrian’s wall, they might go to a museum, they might be taken to learn how to swim as well as all the tours and day-trips that we do”.

“When an airline cancels, or when a railway line goes down, we move the passengers”.

“We are an essential industry to the country and unfortunately the government just aren’t recognising us.”

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