Coronavirus and the public transport industry.

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It's already clear that a lot of businesses are struggling already, before we have even reached a stage where travel is strictly limited and shops are shut but it also stands to reason that the pandemic is going to hit bus and coach companies particularly hard. I can't see smaller companies like Scarlet Band making it through to the other side but we already know that the likes of arriva and first bus are not doing all that well and I'm wondering if they would even survive the inevitable months of reduced usage, never mind the possibility of a few weeks of skeleton or even no services at all.
(13 Mar 2020, 10:35 am)BusLoverMum Wrote: It's already clear that a lot of businesses are struggling already, before we have even reached a stage where travel is strictly limited and shops are shut but it also stands to reason that the pandemic is going to hit bus and coach companies particularly hard. I can't see smaller companies like Scarlet Band making it through to the other side but we already know that the likes of arriva and first bus are not doing all that well and I'm wondering if they would even survive the inevitable months of reduced usage, never mind the possibility of a few weeks of skeleton or even no services at all.

I imagine the government will be keen to keep some service going for as long as possibly safe for staff and passengers.

An obvious go-to would be enhanced Sunday services operating daily. It would be wise to do this sooner rather than later before a driver shortage from self-isolation.

It would also be sensible to adopt a cashless fare system to prevent contamination from coins and notes. I assume in a privatised system temporarily suspending fares would be a step too far as a reimbursement structure would be pretty far down the government’s priorities right now.

If/when school closures come it will be down to how contracts are structured as to which party takes the financial hit (school or operator). Regardless, independents who specialise in schools will depend on private hires in the form of baths and school trips which will now dry up.

Granted, operating costs will go down as buses are parked up but some costs are fixed - finance repayments on vehicles, rent, rates and utilities. The situation around sick pay could be complicated for the bigger operators if their union agreements allow for payments over and above SSP, which is all that will be covered by the government for now.

All in an industry with profit margins generally in  single digits doesn’t bode well, as you say, for companies already declaring financial woes.
(13 Mar 2020, 12:21 pm)James101 Wrote: I imagine the government will be keen to keep some service going for as long as possibly safe for staff and passengers.

An obvious go-to would be enhanced Sunday services operating daily. It would be wise to do this sooner rather than later before a driver shortage from self-isolation.

It would also be sensible to adopt a cashless fare system to prevent contamination from coins and notes. I assume in a privatised system temporarily suspending fares would be a step too far as a reimbursement structure would be pretty far down the government’s priorities right now.

If/when school closures come it will be down to how contracts are structured as to which party takes the financial hit (school or operator). Regardless, independents who specialise in schools will depend on private hires in the form of baths and school trips which will now dry up.

Granted, operating costs will go down as buses are parked up but some costs are fixed - finance repayments on vehicles, rent, rates and utilities. The situation around sick pay could be complicated for the bigger operators if their union agreements allow for payments over and above SSP, which is all that will be covered by the government for now.

All in an industry with profit margins generally in  single digits doesn’t bode well, as you say, for companies already declaring financial woes.
Cashless fares do sound sensible though, unfortunately, that would impact on a lot of people who rely on the bus the most as they can't afford to run a car. Apparently 28% of sales transactions still involve cash.
I really do feel like the whole situation is being sensationalised by the media. I'm not saying that it's something that we need to ignore, only that it's really not as bad as the media are making it out to be.

I have a friend (I know, hard to believe!) who until December worked with a major cruise line and a couple of our friends are currently on ships that have confirmed cases of Coronavirus onboard. The general consensus from them is that (at the minute at least) they are no worse than if they had the flu, not collapsing in the street like the media want us to believe

Obviously, those with pre-existing medical conditions are more likely to receive more ill-effects from it, but all of these 'precautions' that we are needing to take are things that you should be doing anyway!
(13 Mar 2020, 1:31 pm)streetdeckfan Wrote: I really do feel like the whole situation is being sensationalised by the media. I'm not saying that it's something that we need to ignore, only that it's really not as bad as the media are making it out to be.

I have a friend (I know, hard to believe!) who until December worked with a major cruise line and a couple of our friends are currently on ships that have confirmed cases of Coronavirus onboard. The general consensus from them is that (at the minute at least) they are no worse than if they had the flu, not collapsing in the street like the media want us to believe

Obviously, those with pre-existing medical conditions are more likely to receive more ill-effects from it, but all of these 'precautions' that we are needing to take are things that you should be doing anyway!
The majority of cases are like flu but the pattern seems to be that after the days or so, most people recover but a significant minority of people don't and instead develop an inflammatory response not unlike pneumonia. That is what is hospitalising and killing people. You or I may be fine, if we catch it, but my parents probably wouldn't be and a lot of the kids at my youngest's school probably wouldn't be.

Italy has more than 3 times as many high dependency beds than we do and there are hospitals where, if you're even over 60, you won't be getting breathing assistance if you need it because they don't have the capacity.
(13 Mar 2020, 1:51 pm)BusLoverMum Wrote: The majority of cases are like flu but the pattern seems to be that after the days or so, most people recover but a significant minority of people don't and instead develop an inflammatory response not unlike pneumonia. That is what is hospitalising and killing people. You or I may be fine, if we catch it, but my parents probably wouldn't be and a lot of the kids at my youngest's school probably wouldn't be.

Italy has more than 3 times as many high dependency beds than we do and there are hospitals where, if you're even over 60, you won't be getting breathing assistance if you need it because they don't have the capacity.

I get that, my point was more along the lines of the media sensationalising the story so much that they make out that everyone who catches it will just drop dead! In reality, it's actually pretty easy to prevent, it just relies on everybody else having good personal hygiene and good manners! (which, as well all know, isn't going to happen).

I personally think the approach we're taking as a country is the right approach, we have a relatively low number of cases, and unlike mainland Europe we have an actual hard border (physically I mean, not politically yet!) which means we're pretty isolated from all the cases on the continent and shouldn't be treated the same.  Sure, if we start to see cases increase dramatically like they did in Italy, then we should take the extra steps other countries are taking, but at the minute I feel it's a bit premature.

From what I've read, I would actually be classed as 'vulnerable' as I have asthma, but then again I haven't really been reading in to it too much as I'm (pardon the pun) sick to death of hearing about it!
(13 Mar 2020, 1:31 pm)streetdeckfan Wrote: I really do feel like the whole situation is being sensationalised by the media. I'm not saying that it's something that we need to ignore, only that it's really not as bad as the media are making it out to be.

I have a friend (I know, hard to believe!) who until December worked with a major cruise line and a couple of our friends are currently on ships that have confirmed cases of Coronavirus onboard. The general consensus from them is that (at the minute at least) they are no worse than if they had the flu, not collapsing in the street like the media want us to believe

Obviously, those with pre-existing medical conditions are more likely to receive more ill-effects from it, but all of these 'precautions' that we are needing to take are things that you should be doing anyway!

My company operates 4 restaurants in North Staffordshire with over 120 staff and thousands of customers every week. These are the steps I’m taking to protect those people. Call me sensationalist: 

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_f...5475231636&id=442731423175043
(13 Mar 2020, 2:17 pm)James101 Wrote: My company operates 4 restaurants in North Staffordshire with over 120 staff and thousands of customers every week. These are the steps I’m taking to protect those people. Call me sensationalist: 

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_f...5475231636&id=442731423175043

I wouldn't say that's sensationalist at all. They're perfectly reasonable steps to take to help prevent the spread

But then again, I'd argue that you should already be cleaning everything properly, not that I'm saying you aren't! Just the fact that everyone went and bought every hand sanitiser/soap available makes me think people weren't being hygienic before!
In fact, I would have probably gone a step further and made contactless payment required for transactions under £30 (assuming the customer's card supports it)
(13 Mar 2020, 2:25 pm)streetdeckfan Wrote: I wouldn't say that's sensationalist at all. They're perfectly reasonable steps to take to help prevent the spread

But then again, I'd argue that you should already be cleaning everything properly, not that I'm saying you aren't! Just the fact that everyone went and bought every hand sanitiser/soap available makes me think people weren't being hygienic before!
In fact, I would have probably gone a step further and made contactless payment required for transactions under £30 (assuming the customer's card supports it)

Restaurants aside, I’m not sure how similar measures could be implemented on buses. By definition they are confined spaces with hard plastic surfaces and passengers in close proximity. Passengers whom are disproportionately elderly and disabled.

In effect it is now past the point of trying to prevent the population at large from catching the virus, but trying to prevent or at least stagger the rate at which older people catch the disease. Control of public transport could be critical in this.

 As the OP states, the second threat is the economic impact a downturn in patronage will have directly and the indirect effects of further decline on the high street and diverted government funding. I think Stagecoach will fare well. First have this week strengthened their commitments to turning around UK Bus into profit. I think Arriva will take the biggest hit. Things seem stable in the NE but situation is already pretty dire in areas like Cheshire where they’re long past trimming evening and Sunday services and withdrawing whole routes and imposing restrictive 40 minute frequencies on core routes, which can only lead to further decline. Combined with the heavy penalties to be imposed for the Northern franchise and DB’s pressure to reduce debt I can only see the sale of Arriva coming back around.
The companies that are likely to be the hardest hit is firms that specialize in private hires and excursions as companies are having their trips cancelled already with likely more to come if the outbreak gets any worse anywhere, some will have scholars to fall back and maybe some service work but if there's little to no income then I can see many more independents having to shut up shop.

Rail and air travel is also likely to take a hit due to decreased patronage and cancellations.
(13 Mar 2020, 7:49 pm)Jimmi Wrote: The companies that are likely to be the hardest hit is firms that specialize in private hires and excursions as companies are having their trips cancelled already with likely more to come if the outbreak gets any worse anywhere, some will have scholars to fall back and maybe some service work but if there's little to no income then I can see many more independents having to shut up shop.

Rail and air travel is also likely to take a hit due to decreased patronage and cancellations.

I have a feeling Weardale isn't going to last much longer. From what I heard they lost quite a bit of income with GNE no longer using the Crook depot, and they lost out on quite a number of school contracts this year.
If they have to start cancelling their holidays they'll be a bit buggered
(13 Mar 2020, 7:49 pm)Jimmi Wrote: The companies that are likely to be the hardest hit is firms that specialize in private hires and excursions as companies are having their trips cancelled already with likely more to come if the outbreak gets any worse anywhere, some will have scholars to fall back and maybe some service work but if there's little to no income then I can see many more independents having to shut up shop.

Rail and air travel is also likely to take a hit due to decreased patronage and cancellations.
Aye, Flybe tipped over the edge pretty early on and I saw that Hays travel were talking about asking some staff to take unpaid leave so they're obviously taking a lot less bookings for packages. Many of their staff will already have been through the wringer with the Thomas Cook collapse.

The scholars' income isn't even guaranteed if schools close. The boys both take a taxi to school and their drivers would lose a lot of steady income.
(13 Mar 2020, 8:26 pm)BusLoverMum Wrote: Aye, Flybe tipped over the edge pretty early on and I saw that Hays travel were talking about asking some staff to take unpaid leave so they're obviously taking a lot less bookings for packages. Many of their staff will already have been through the wringer with the Thomas Cook collapse.

The scholars' income isn't even guaranteed if schools close. The boys both take a taxi to school and their drivers would lose a lot of steady income.

A friend of mine works for Hays Travel, she's only been there a few weeks so I'm surprised they didn't exploit the fact she's still on her probationary period to just get rid of her!

She was essentially told to take unpaid leave or have her contracted hours reduced. They're also moving some staff from the overstaffed stores to the understaffed stores
(13 Mar 2020, 10:35 am)BusLoverMum Wrote: It's already clear that a lot of businesses are struggling already, before we have even reached a stage where travel is strictly limited and shops are shut but it also stands to reason that the pandemic is going to hit bus and coach companies particularly hard. I can't see smaller companies like Scarlet Band making it through to the other side but we already know that the likes of arriva and first bus are not doing all that well and I'm wondering if they would even survive the inevitable months of reduced usage, never mind the possibility of a few weeks of skeleton or even no services at all.

A lot of independents seem to be struggling, but I don't think that is particularly a recent thing. I guess it is going to impact some more than others, e.g. the ones that are reliant on excursion programmes for example. The schools contracts, I'd imagine, would pay regardless.

That being said though, this problem isn't going to be unique to the transport industry and there was a missed opportunity to put support in place during the budget on Wednesday.

A temporary relief on employer NI contributions may have been one thing that would have supported struggling businesses, but more transport specific, perhaps a temporary exemption on fuel duty? 

(13 Mar 2020, 2:17 pm)James101 Wrote: My company operates 4 restaurants in North Staffordshire with over 120 staff and thousands of customers every week. These are the steps I’m taking to protect those people. Call me sensationalist: 

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_f...5475231636&id=442731423175043

Brilliant! Exactly what any business that has direct face-to-face contact with customers should be doing, if only to reassure people that they're doing everything they possibly can.

Although it didn't go anywhere near as far as this, LNER put a brief email statement out earlier. I don't think any of the bus operators up here have, but I did ask Arriva and Go North East earlier, only to be ignored.
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(13 Mar 2020, 8:09 pm)streetdeckfan Wrote: I have a feeling Weardale isn't going to last much longer. From what I heard they lost quite a bit of income with GNE no longer using the Crook depot, and they lost out on quite a number of school contracts this year.
If they have to start cancelling their holidays they'll be a bit buggered

Think providing they don't have too many issues with this, Weardale will survive. Here's hoping that with them having more space at Crook they go for some more tendered services in County Durham the next time they are up for grabs.


(13 Mar 2020, 10:35 pm)Adrian Wrote: Brilliant! Exactly what any business that has direct face-to-face contact with customers should be doing, if only to reassure people that they're doing everything they possibly can.

Although it didn't go anywhere near as far as this, LNER put a brief email statement out earlier. I don't think any of the bus operators up here have, but I did ask Arriva and Go North East earlier, only to be ignored.

Many of the independents in Yorkshire have suggested that passengers pay their fares via contactless payments on service work although they're still accepting cash payments and also stated that they are taking extra measures to clean their buses.
I'm also surprised at the lack of comment by our local big 3 bus companies, so far.

Good article on the BBC website about how hard a lot of airlines are being hit and the steps being taken to keep them afloat. Still a lot of people losing their livelihoods.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51875271
(14 Mar 2020, 9:29 am)BusLoverMum Wrote: I'm also surprised at the lack of comment by our local big 3 bus companies, so far.

Good article on the BBC website about how hard a lot of airlines are being hit and the steps being taken to keep them afloat. Still a lot of people losing their livelihoods.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51875271

Stagecoach put a "Coronavirus Update" on their Facebook and Twitter pages yesterday.

However, people commented why they have used this as a excuse to improve cleanliness on their busses.
(14 Mar 2020, 1:50 pm)AIG20 Wrote: Stagecoach put a "Coronavirus Update" on their Facebook and Twitter pages yesterday.

However, people commented why they have used this as a excuse to improve cleanliness on their busses.

There's a vast difference between creating a clean and pleasant environment to travel on generally and specialist cleaning with viral contamination in mind. I suspect the big operators are playing a game of chicken as to who'll make significant changes first and where they set the standard.
Email has been sent out by stagecoach to.
Stagecoach: https://www.stagecoachbus.com/coronavirus

Quote:Q. Are you carrying out additional cleaning on your services?
We already have well-established and rigorous cleaning regimes for our buses, coaches and trams, and we are continuing to enhance the measures we have in place in response to the developing situation with more regular cleaning of the main customer touch-points such as hand poles and grab rails.
We are also providing additional cleaning materials such as personal hand sanitiser for frontline employees, as well as extra cleaning materials for depots and other work areas, and are issuing detailed and regular reminders to our teams about hygiene good practice.

They've pretty much dodged their own question in their own FAQs... 'more regular' = what? If they're only done every month now, then twice a month would be more regular... but still far from being sufficient! 

Meanwhile Go North East, Arriva and the Metro continue to dodge the question...
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