Operators feel the pinch as prices rise
While businesses in many different sectors have to contend with rising fuel prices [Fuel Prices], bus and coach operators are perhaps feeling the pinch more than most. Revenue for bus companies may increase as people opt for public transport over driving themselves in response to increases in duty, but with such a high proportion of a firm's expenditure going on fuel it does not offset the higher prices. Operators must then choose between fare increases - which can result in a loss of business - and taking a hit on profit margins.
Buying more efficient vehicles is one way in which operators can keep costs low, and choosing hybrid models and others that meet emissions standards also allows an operator to keep its fleet carbon footprint down. Indeed, those entering London face charges if they haven't made a switch, as the Low Emission Zone imposes a £200 daily fee for vehicles that do not meet Euro IV standards. But upgrading vehicles in this way comes at a cost.
Is there enough support?
The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) has noted coaches perform the role of 20 cars on the road, making them the greenest option. But it highlights local councils don't do enough to facilitate them, with dedicated coach parking spaces being left out of town and city plans. Including these can make it easier for tourists to visit, providing a boost for a local economy at a time when any additional income is valued.
Passenger safety and responsibility
Passenger safety and comfort is always a key concern and driver training is one of the main ways companies can ensure they protect consumers. However, training can be expensive and firms must identify which areas to focus on in order to reconcile the costs with the benefits. Failing to provide adequate training can lead to high repair charges and insurance claim payouts - in addition to the negative publicity that accompanies an accident.
The extent to which operators should be responsible is also a controversial issue, with trade associations such as the CPT objecting to government proposals to hold operators accountable if children are not wearing seat belts. The organisation has argued such a requirement would cost the industry nearly £5 million each year.
Such additional expenditure, combined with ever-increasing fuel prices and the need to keep fleets up to date, make keeping costs under control more important than ever for the bus and coach industry.
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