14 Apr 2020

BUSWORLD ACADEMY WEBINAR ABOUT THE COVID-19 SITUATION

A new phenomena for Busworld Academy, a webinar for the bus and coach sector. In his opening words Jan de Man, Director Busworld Academy, mentioned 390 participants from all over the world joining this webinar. The topic Covid-19 in the bus and coach sector was discussed by Anna Grönlund, Vice President CPT-IRU and deputy managing director of the Swedish Bus and Coach Federation, Peter Pantuso CEO and President at ABA and President of the National Bus Traffic Association (USA) and Prasanna Keshav Patwardhan, President BOCI - Bus & Car Operators Confederation of India.

All over the world the measures taken in trying to contain the spreading of the Covid-19 virus are more or less the same. Governments helping businesses by compensating for loss in revenues, helping companies in paying salaries and postponement in paying taxes. The main topics in this webinar discussed were: Economic and financial measures to keep bus & coach operators in business; Measures for keeping bus systems operational; Measures for keeping bus drivers and our staff safe.

Peter Pantuso started the webinar by mentioning the importance with a 15 billion US-dollar in revenues, of the motorcoach travel and tour industry for the economy of the US. “In regards to funding we should be treated as the other modes of transportation in the US. But the administration and congress are tone deaf to our needs. The aid packages that are in place unfortunately do not support the motorcoach industry. Because a big part of our business for the rest of the year is gone already it is unlikely that we can meet the demand of having staff on the payroll over the next eight weeks as congress prescribes in this loan programme. Then it just will be another loan instead of a grant. A new debt with no income coming in, does not help these companies. We as the industry have told congress: You miss the bus in this, meanwhile any other mode of passenger transportation is funded. We have started an aggressive lobbying and engagement program focussing Capital Hill and members of congress.”

Europe is meeting the Covid-19 challenge in different ways, explains Anna Grönlund. All over Europe long distance services are stopped and urban transportation has decreased by also 50% and in some places even up to a 100%. She stated that for the short term financial support is crucial for the survival of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). But foremost the availability of the relevant sanitary equipment and products to transport operators is needed to protect the health and safety of their employees, as well as the passengers.

For the long term or post COVID-19, she raises several questions. “Will private businesses survive? Consolidation, will there be less players in the market? Will people look forward to travel or will people be afraid of travelling and going on holiday trips and weekend breaks? What effects will be seen on our cities, regarding to environment and congestion? How will this effect all the hard work we have done on climate change? Will governments and regions be able to enlarge and obtain a public service network that attract people to take the bus to their work and the universities?

As an industry we need to raise our voice to unite in these difficult times and need to tell our governments and decision makers to support our sector, because we as a sector support our society after this crisis.”

Despite India until now has relatively few Covid-19 patients and victims it has taken the most stringent measures. In almost 80% of the country there is no movement at all, bus lines, railways, airlines are all closed. In a large part of the country there is a lockdown, which means everybody has to stay indoors. Prasanna Keshav Patwardhan: “Our business has dropped to almost zero. The Indian government has not yet given support to the industry. We are waiting. Our main demand is for supporting salaries of our workers. Otherwise unemployment will rise enormously. Around 6 million people are directly employed by our members. We have to adapt to the new normal, it all will be different like this Busworld Academy webinar is now showing us all over the world. This is a black swan event. The big challenge will come when things are going back to normal. Today we are thinking of paying salaries to our workers, but restarting the business will be really challenging. What will happen to tourism? For this year it is almost over. And for example, what kind of systems do we need to put in place to be ready for social distancing? To face the new normal, more collaboration is needed between the different modalities like railways, metro and bus. How do we manage this and integrate the systems.”

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