School buses are not guaranteed to run next term unless the government steps in with extra cash for the industry, according to a leading coach operator.
North Yorkshire-based coach firm York Pullman, which facilitates a million schoolchild journeys a year, says it could be forced to lay off half its workforce.
The UK coach industry earns more than £4bn a year in fares and makes most of its money from leisure bookings, which have collapsed since the coronavirus lockdown was imposed in March.
Although coach travel is now permitted, only an estimated 4% of services are running, with passengers showing little appetite for travel.
York Pullman’s managing director, Tom James, said he is concentrating on saving his business.
“Once we get to the end of October and the furlough scheme ends we’re going to be looking at 50% redundancies, which is not something I want to consider,” he said.
“Getting children to school in September… will be a big challenge. We are talking about multiple failures in this industry.”
The warning comes as hundreds of coaches from across the country converge on Westminster today to press for government support.
Coach operator trade body, the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (PTC), is calling for cash support and an extension of the furlough scheme to help pay staff wages beyond October.
PTC chief executive Graham Vidler echoed the concerns about school transport but said the government has told him there will be no sector-specific support.
He believes ministers will be forced to provide help to prevent what he called “problems across society”.
“I’m confident they understand the importance of coaches and they will find a way to step in and give the industry the support it so badly needs,” he said.