Kilkenny’s bus and coach operators have warned today that their businesses are 'running on empty' and urgent Government action is needed to save the sector.
The impact of the Coronavirus has been particularly hard on the sector, with the complete collapse of International and Domestic Tourism, and a huge reduction of passenger numbers on scheduled services.
In Kilkenny alone, there are over 400 people employed by the sector. The operators are financially struggling and many of their employees have had to be laid off for the duration of the crisis.
Speaking to The Kilkenny People, John Halpenny, an operator who represents the sector said that “We’re all really worried about the long term future. I’ve been talking to others around the county and many are worried that they won’t be able to get through the crisis. If we are going to survive then we need help from government.”
Halpenny said that many operators had borrowed money to buy new coaches to carry Ireland’s tourists around the country. “With all the tourists cancelling we’ve had to park new buses in the yards. We need an interest-free moratorium on these loans.” he said.
The sector also carries 90% of Kilkenny school bus journeys, and Halpenny worries that if some operators go out of business then the sector won’t be able to provide a normal school bus services when the crisis ends. “We need full payment of the school transport contracts for the duration of school closures” said Halpenny. “That way we protect the school bus services and ensure that they are ready to resume a full, normal service when this crisis passes.”
“Our operators have very little reserves and in effect, financially our businesses are ‘running on empty’. If we are to get through this and get back to a normal service delivery then we need help from government, on things like getting paid throughout the crisis for rural transport and HSE contracts. Assistance would give us enough income to keep people employed and to survive this together. I’m calling on Kilkenny's Councillors, TDs and Senators to support the jobs in the sector and protect one of the County’s vital public services.