Blackpool Honk for Hope event raises awareness of industry’s struggles amid coronavirus crisis

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Over 200 coaches convoyed through the streets of Blackpool on Tuesday 14 July as part of the Honk for Hope campaign, a movement intended to raise awareness of the coach industry’s plight as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An overview of some of the coaches which gathered in Blackpool on Tuesday. DARREN DAWSON

Vehicles from operators of all sizes participated in the convoy along the M55 to the seaside town, which ordinarily is a popular tourist destination for coach holidays and day trips.

However, some who had planned to attend were sadly unable to do so as a result of their financial position. Organiser of the campaign – and the Blackpool event – Jenna Rush, Managing Director of North East Coach Travel, wrote on Facebook: “I would like to say a thank you to the operators that wanted to attend the event but unfortunately were not able to for the devastating effect that COVID-19 has had on our industry.

“We all know the debt we take on by updating our fleet and the personal guarantees we have. We have had messages from operators who could not afford to insure their coaches or pay to put the fuel in, who have suicidal thoughts about the thought of losing everything, who siphoned diesel from other coaches to put in a coach to bring today… one operator was all ready to come to Blackpool but unfortunately had their coaches repossessed on Tuesday morning before they were able to.

“Our industry needs to come together to support each other and fight to come out the other side together. I am astounded at the operators who have come together for this event. If one thing has come from this, it is the amazing show of unity! I thank you all!”

While the event was a success and attracted considerable media attention – particularly in the local area – the government is yet to respond to calls for emergency funding to secure the future of coach operators nationwide, many of which are on the brink of collapse after work dried up earlier this year.

Jenna and the operators participating in the Honk for Hope movement are however determined to make a difference, and so will be staging a similar convoy through London on Monday 20 July, which CBW will be attending.

“We have around 120 coaches confirmed as attending up to now,” Jenna revealed on Facebook. “I am in contact with the Metropolitan Police and Westminster Council and want to keep them up to date so it is all done right. We need to keep highlighting our case with the media and get the government to realise just what they will lose when we are gone!”

For more details on the event and how to attend, visit: facebook.com/groups/1165031013851428