Operators who have personalised registrations on their coaches, buses or minibuses are promised lower fees and a better service, thanks to changes to the law this month.The law has changed to reduce the fee to retain a personalised registration from 105 to 80. This will apply to both paper and online transactions.This change sees the removal of the 25 fee currently in place to renew the retention of a vehicle registration number on an annual basis.The renewal period is also extended to 10 years. There is another added benefit: The fee is being removed to add or change nominee details.Says the DVLA: â€œCustomers will see a significant reduction in turnaround times following the introduction of this service.â€œDVLA systems will be updated in real time and the service will provide instant confirmation that the application has been successful.â€In future, the vehicle registration certificate (V5C) with the replacement registration number and retention certificate will be issued by post to the registered keeper on DVLA’s records. There will no longer be a replacement MOT certificate issued to the keeper, as the original remains valid.Also, the DVLA has launched its online ‘Take a Registration Number off a Vehicle’ service, which allows keepers and dealers to apply to retain a number online.The new online service went live on Monday (23 March).Visit: www.zigs.me/7vY
You can tell it’s summer: There are more flies and they can be a darned nuisance. They are part of a chain – the bit of the ‘circle of life’ that Disney tastefully doesn’t mention – that deals with decay and destruction.All businesses, and sometimes entire industries, have a life cycle. Those with long memories will be able to reel off the names of operators no longer in business.There are many reasons for their demise, including changing local economies and travel patterns, through to bad decisions, poor financial planning or a basic failure to be compliant.A quick SWOT analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for your business is something an outsider might do if you’re looking to sell your business, or an investor might consider if you’re looking to raise cash.The first two should be relatively easy to list, if you’re close to your business but open-minded enough to accept that not everything is perfect. Opportunities come in many forms and can often be less predictable, but threats?In this case it can depend as much on where you operate geographically, as on other factors. The London ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) means that you’ll either have to have Euro 6 coaches and minibuses in the capital from 2019, or pay a daily charge that could add around £6 per seat, per trip.For bus operators, the threat might come from back-door re-regulation via franchises.But our latest poll of operators reveals that direct political action, such as the ULEZ or Bus Services Bill, is not your greatest worry. A massive 43% responded that the ‘biggest threat to your business’ is a shortage of drivers. The ULEZ is cited by only 9% as the biggest threat, while Brexit (24%) and economic slowdown (17%) are the other major concerns.And the rest? It’s a lack of capital.Are these some of the threats to your business, or are you feeling more positive? Whatever the answer, please e-mail me and tell me what you think.This was a simple question, with a choice of five answers. If threats are like flies, then it’s likely that you’ve got more than one buzzing around your office at the moment. Time to get the fly swat out.Mel Holley, Editor
Cardiff operator Ferris Holidays has taken delivery of two VDL Futura 2s, supplied by Moseley in the South (01823 653000). The 13.9m tri-axles have 61 Vogel seats with USB charging points at each, and also have Wi-Fi connectivity.
Long-established Chelmsford, Essex operator Lodge’s Coaches has taken delivery of a second Mercedes-Benz Tourismo M. It joins an earlier example delivered in 2015 and has been supplied by EvoBus (UK) (02476 626000).The new coach is finished to range-topping Touring Plus specification and it seats 53 in Luxline upholstery, with passengers benefiting from drop-down tables and foot rests. Entertainment is via two 19in monitors that are connected to a Bosch Professional Line system.Power is delivered by the OM 470 engine rated at 422bhp, and it drives through an eight-speed Powershift automated gearbox.The standard Mercedes-Benz range of safety equipment is fitted, including Advanced Emergency Braking System, Lane Departure Warning, and a reversing camera.The coach will be used on a variety of private hire, day excursions and extended tours at home and abroad.
Paul says: “I’m delighted to welcome Simon to the team. I’ve worked with him before and I know him to be an outstanding technician with a real understanding of the paint world.“Not only does Simon bring his experience of the domestic bodyshop environment and European paint manufacturers, he is committed to ensuring our partners and customers receive the highest level of support from a technical and product perspective.” Simon Allan has joined Sonne, Hella’s paint division, as a Senior Technical Manager, alongside Head of Division, Paul Tredgold.Simon is now Sonne’s Senior Technical Manager
Due to slipping vehicle maintenance standards, the licence of Thomason Travel has been cut for four days by DTC Mike DorringtonThe licence held by Wigton-based Thomason Travel has been cut from six vehicles to five for a period of four days by Deputy Traffic Commissioner (DTC) Miles Dorrington, to mark that vehicle maintenance had slipped despite a warning at a previous Public Inquiry (PI).Craig and Tracy Thomason, trading as Thomason Travel, of Station Road, Wigton, had been called before the DTC at a Golborne PI following an unsatisfactory report from Vehicle Examiner (VE) Andrew Sefton, and the issue of a number of prohibitions including an ‘S’ marked immediate prohibition for a defective tyre. The DTC was also considering the repute of Transport Manager (TM) Stuart Ramsey. At a previous PI in 2012, the firm were given a warning by DTC Patrick Mulvenna.Craig Thomason said that since the VE’s visit the driver defect reporting system had been changed and the importance of the driver’s walk round checks had been emphasised. They now had monthly meetings with the drivers. Three drivers who had continued not to do the checks properly had been dismissed. Some 90% of their work was for the local authority carrying disabled children and adults. They ran five vehicles during the week and they did not do much private hire work at the weekend. In the 13 years he had been operating he had never had an accident or had any complaints about the way the vehicles were driven or about the service provided. It seemed that Mr Thomason had not gone out of his way to cut corners and he just needed to ‘tweak’ things, which he appeared to have doneThe DTC commented that the ‘S’ marked prohibition should not have happened, and it was a serious matter when it involved a PSV vehicle. It affected road safety and it occurred because the driver did not do his job properly. That was probably gross misconduct on the driver’s part.In reply to the DTC, Mr Thomason said that he had been unaware that it had been wrong to recover a vehicle that had been given an immediate prohibition by towing it with a rigid bar.Mr Ramsey said that he had been more vigilant since the VE’s visit. The drivers they could not trust had now gone.Cutting the licence and making no direction in relation to Mr Ramsey’s repute as a TM, the DTC said that he had read through the explanations for the prohibitions. It seemed that Mr Thomason had not gone out of his way to cut corners and he just needed to ‘tweak’ things, which he appeared to have done.However, it was difficult to give a second warning as despite the previous warning things seemed to slip. Significant steps had been taken since. He had been impressed with what had been done and the way in which Mr Thomason had responded to the DVSA investigation. Consequently he was not taking action that would have an adverse effect on the business, but he needed to put a mark on the file that if it happened again significant action would be taken against the licence.
Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), former Addison Lee CEO Liam Griffin and other ‘angel investors’ are making a $450,000 (£352,000) pre-seed investment in ‘pop-up’ coach firm Zeelo.Zeelo has big ambitions: “We’re going to be the people to run the first autonomous coach trip in the UK.”The London-based start-up runs coaches on-demand, mainly to sporting and music events, with a large database of coach operators which it hires. It was founded by Barney Williams and Sam Ryan, who sold their start-up ‘JumpIn’, a taxi booking and sharing app for students, to Addison Lee in 2014 while at university.Big Plans: Zeelo founders Sam Ryan and Barney WilliamsJLR’s investment comes through its InMotion Ventures mobility programme, which has invested in start-ups such as Lyft and GoKid.Zeelo uses ‘big data’ and ‘machine learning’ to understand where surges in travel demand are appearing and creates pop-up coach routes. Its algorithm analyses and learns from multiple data sources allowing it to generate routes that are poorly served by public transport.“Zeelo was born out of our frustration of scheduled transport not catering well for surges in demand,” says Mr Williams. “We aim to understand what people actually need, rather than forcing them into certain types of transport.”In a series of trials since February, Zeelo has carried 3,000 people, as well as piloting a joint initiative with a Premier League football club.The investment will begin Zeelo’s roll-out across the UK, with an initial focus on event travel. It says the inter-urban transport market is worth £42bn a year.In a series of trials since February, Zeelo has carried 3,000 people“Competitors, including Megabus and National Express, run scheduled services meaning they don’t cater well for large surges in demand,” says Mr Williams. “This leads to multiple stops, changes en route, and a poorer customers experience.”Zeelo will roll out across the UK in 2017 and early 2018, with plans to roll out into Europe in late 2018.
Go North East (GNE) is partnering with the Alzheimer’s Society to pledge that every new driver will have to become a Dementia Friend before driving in service. The Go-Ahead subsidiary, the region’s largest operator, has also promised that every one of its 1,600 drivers will become a Dementia Friend within the next five years, helping to transform the way people think, act and talk about dementia. Launch: (l-r) Jim Dunn, Rachael Hall, Bernard McLaughlin, Natasha Tanner and Michael HandyAlready 220 drivers have completed the information session. A Dementia Friend learns about what it’s like to live with the condition and turns that understanding into action.There are 30,000 people living with dementia in the north-east. This initiative is part of GNE’s commitment to providing inclusive travel and tourism within the North East. GNE encourages staff to become volunteer Dementia Friends champions, enabling them to deliver information sessions about dementia to drivers across its nine depots.It is part of a mental health module within GNE’s Disability Awareness DCPC course. Other modules include legislation, company policy, sight guidance (in association with the RNIB), mobility (which covers the company’s easy access guarantee) and hearing loss. Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is the biggest-ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia. It aims to transform the way the nation thinks, talks and acts about the condition.Joe Kirwin, Dementia Friends Officer at Alzheimer’s Society said: “It’s all about learning more about dementia and the small ways you can help. From getting in touch with someone you know living with dementia, to wearing your badge with pride, every action counts.”Stephen King, Head of Commercial and Retail said: “We are passionate about never standing still when it comes to achieving excellence in accessibility and this partnership-led initiative with Dementia Friends is incredibly important to us.“As the region’s largest bus operator we have a responsibility to ensure that our front-line staff understand the condition. “By committing to making all drivers Dementia Friends we aim to provide reassurance to those living with dementia that they can count on a safe and comfortable journey when travelling with us. “With this step we also hope to play a significant role in eliminating the feelings of loneliness and social exclusion that those with dementia can feelGo North East operates in the cities of Newcastle, Durham and Sunderland; across Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, County Durham and into Tees Valley.Around 200,000 people use Go North East bus services every day.It employs 2,100 local people to run 700 buses and coaches and its annual turnover is £100m.
An employee who recently completed an internal staff development programme has taken a step up the career ladder after being appointed as Assistant Operations Manager for Stagecoach South’s Chichester depot.Jeetinder Mattu from Aldershot, known as Jet, will support the Operations Manager, Mike Armitage, to oversee the day-to-day running of a fleet of 67 buses and a team of over 140 driving and supervisory staff.Jet joined Stagecoach in 2012 as a driver in Aldershot. He then progressed to the training team in 2013 working as a driving instructor and later a Driver CPC trainer.In 2018 he joined the Stagecoach Staff Development Programme, which is a national training programme that seeks to encourage and support staff to learn and gain management experience, opening up career prospects within the company.Jet says: “I learned a great deal from the staff development programme and I am looking forward to putting this learning into practice as we seek to grow our products and network to help our customers and communities across Chichester and Bognor Regis.”Gordon Frost, Operations Director, adds: “We’re committed to ensuring that we provide real opportunities for staff development and Jet’s appointment is testament to the success the staff development programme can bring our employees and benefit the business overall.”
The coach industry continued to draw attention to the impact of coronavirus COVID-19 on its finances at a Honk for Hope gathering in North Yorkshire on 1 July.Over 60 operators from across the Midlands, the North and Scotland brought 91 vehicles of all sizes to tourism hotspot Lightwater Valley, near Ripon. They were welcomed with open arms. As a leisure establishment, the theme park acknowledges the importance of coach tourism to its business.The event was organised by Jenna Rush, Managing Director of Seaton Burn-based North East Coach Travel, and Matthew Forsyth, General Manager of Northumberland operator M J Forsyth Travel.Honk for Hope in the UK moved from idea to reality in around a week. It was conceived to show the diverse nature and needs of the UK’s coach sector, something that arguably has not yet been understood by the government.“This is a large industry and many operators specialise in areas where no support has been received,” says Ms Rush. “As an example, our business centres on private hire. We carry out no home-to-school transport and so have not benefited from any continuing contract payments.”Some operators in England that are active in the day trip market are already seeing demand return. But for those that have not been part of that niche previously, joining it quickly is very difficult, she adds.Leisure sector acceptance is a key objective of Honk for HopeCentral to hopes for support is a fundamental change to the current situation of how coach operators in England are not considered eligible for the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF). It is worth up to £25,000. While some of those present at Lightwater Valley have received money from it, many have seen applications refused by their local authority.Over 60 operators from across the Midlands, the North and Scotland brought 91 vehicles to the Honk for Hope gathering at Lightwater ValleyThat is a continuing source of frustration. The Honk for Hope gathering demonstrated that the coach industry is without question part of the leisure sector.As ample proof of that, Lightwater Valley welcomes 50,000 visitors per year that travel by coach.For some operators, payment of RHLGF money as a minimum is imperative if major change to their businesses is to be avoided. More flexibility in the application of other grant funds is also hoped for.One Managing Director of an operator based in the North East says it has lost £600,000 since the pandemic’s onset. As it does not pay business rates, the total support it has received thus far is £5,000. That has come from a discretionary grant fund.Nevertheless, several of its vehicles supported Honk for Hope. Other operators also returned to use for the event coaches that have been subject to SORN declarations. That demonstrates the depth of feeling within the industry that it continues to be ignored.Honk for Hope: A European campaign with momentumHonk for Hope began in mainland Europe with coach operator protests. Concurrent with the event at Lightwater Valley were demonstrations by Polish operators in their homeland.Activity elsewhere has focused on slow-moving convoys of coaches, but that has not been adopted in the UK for various reasons. Momentum has started to form for a further gathering in southern England to allow operators there to become involved.The impact of finance and insurance payments while little to no income is being generated is the most serious threat to operators, says Ms Rush. Vehicle finance is a particular area where she would like to see the government explore potential assistance.While North East Coach Travel does not undertake home-to-school transport, it does carry out school sports team trips. It remains in the dark whether they will be permitted at the outset of the new school year.Because of that, the operator expects it to be Easter 2021 before its business fully returns to normal. The almost entire cessation of work has been particularly difficult to swallow given the promise that January and February showed; both months were very busy.All is not in a name, says one operatorIf the government fails to understand the contribution that coaches make to the leisure sector, then it also does not grasp the breadth of work that they carry out. That is the view of Jason Burn, Director of Copeland’s Tours. It was among three Stoke-on-Trent operators to support Honk for Hope.Bibby’s of Ingleton is working innovatively with some attractions to help them formulate plans to accept coach parties in the medium term“While the name of our business may be Copeland’s Tours, tours are only a portion of what we do,” he explains.“We carry out private hire, holidays and as our bread and butter work, home-to-school transport.“That mix is not unique to us. Many operators are active across the coaching sphere. It is important that awareness of our overall contribution is raised among the public and politicians.”Copeland’s will shortly restart its day trip programme. To ensure customer safety it has invested heavily in equipment to ensure the cleanliness of coaches. That includes hand sanitiser dispensers for all vehicles, a ‘fogging’ machine and other items.While bookings have already been received, Mr Burn points out that the time cost of taking them is higher than it was before. Whereas making a reservation previously was a simple process, it now can involve more discussion as customers seek reassurance of the safety measures put in place.On the front foot with attractionsWhile Lightwater Valley has articulated its support for the coach industry, one firm in attendance at Honk for Hope has already begun to engage with other key attractions that it serves to help them to become confident in handling coach parties in the medium term.Bibby’s of Ingleton Director Chris Bibby says the operator has offered to take a coach and around 20 members of its own staff to attractions on a ‘dry run’ basis.Doing so will allow the other party’s employees to use Bibby’s people as ‘guinea pigs’ to formulate processes to permit coach parties to be accepted as soon as practicable. Several businesses have responded favourable to Bibby’s proposal.That is one example of how some members of the coach industry can do their bit to get trade back as soon as is possible. But the overriding thought from many at the Honk for Hope event was that the sector needs further government help if it is to return to where it was before.