Two bus operators have ceased trading, citing Covid-19 as a contributory factor.
Swallow Coaches, based in Rainham, which operated tendered services for Essex County Council, posted a notice on its website announcing that the company would be passed to administrators after the close of business on 31 March. It operated routes 13, 61 and 133 under contract to Essex County Council.
The company said the decision “was not taken lightly”. “However, given the current situation with coronavirus and the renewal of our insurances due on 1 April, we feel the decision has been made for us.”
In West Yorkshire, Halifax-based TJ Walsh has gone into administration. The Halifax Courier reported managing director Neil Walsh saying the business had suffered in recent years from rival FirstGroup “over-bussing” routes and discounting fares, as well as a low reimbursement for concessionary travel of 79p per passholder. This meant the operator had for the last few years “only just been trading and keeping employees in work, but has been unable to build up cash reserves to help in times of crisis”.
Covid-19 dealt the knockout blow. “There is an irony that we had just applied for and been told we were successful in a bid to run three additional tendered services for the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and that would have helped to increase our cash reserves,” said Walsh. “Obviously these are not being awarded now in this time of crisis.”
Walsh said he had considered a temporary cessation of services and putting staff on furlough, with the Government paying 80 per cent of an employee’s wage costs up to £2,500 a month.
“This at first seemed like a possibility but with little or no cash reserves still means that by the time it is implemented we will have had to pay weeks of wages until it is reclaimed.”
The operator would still have had to pay overheads too, he pointed out.
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