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Coach operators need support – Sugden

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PRIVATE coach operators and drivers will require financial support if they are to survive a COVID-related downturn in business, East Londonderry MLA Claire Sugden has said.

Many private operators had been unable to avail of existing grants and support, Ms Sugden said. She has written to Executive ministers to request a meeting to discuss the issue.

“The private bus and coach industry has seen its business almost completely disappear since March,” she said. “With much of their usual business coming from tourism, schools, community groups and events such as weddings, operators have contacted me saying they are now facing bankruptcy.

“While most drivers have been able to avail of the furlough scheme, the businesses themselves are still struggling. That is why I have written to Executive ministers requesting a meeting to discuss the issue.

“It’s vital the Executive does everything in its power to keep businesses in Northern Ireland afloat during this difficult period.”

In light of the COVID pandemic, over 50 private operators established the Coach Operators of Northern Ireland (CONI) representative body. The group said the reported loss of £21m to the private coach sector was likely to be much higher.

“CONI has said their operators feel ‘completely over-looked’ by the Executive. They, as well as other businesses facing difficulty, need to be given guidance and support as soon as possible,” the MLA said.

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