Anthonys Travel coach

The RHA is to welcome coach operators into its membership after complaints from firms that they had been “let down” by their current trade body amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Launching in April 2021, RHA Coaches hopes to take on board 500 new members by the end of the year who will benefit from the trade association’s close ties with the government.

RHA Coaches logo 01

It is understood that the RHA, whose mmebers currently operate from 13,500 sites, had planned to enter the coach sector within a couple of years, but after operators made contact earlier this year and asked for its help, it hastened the move to provide representation.

It will recruit two new members of staff to manage the specialist group.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “I’m sure the immediate reaction of some to this news will inevitably be one of surprise, however there are remarkable similarities and synergies between the operators of HGVs and coaches.

“Coach fleets vary in size - the smallest having less than 10 vehicles and the largest around 100 to 150. Many are family-run businesses with depots in one or two regional locations, operating a range of different vehicle sizes to meet the demands of their customers.”

Richard Bamber, managing partner at Anthony’s Travel and a former chairman of the North West Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), said he had become increasingly unhappy with the direction the trade body was taking on a national level.

“The regional managers are absolutely first class and understand all the issues,” he said. “However, the message from the regions often doesn’t seem to manifest in London; it seems to be a totally different message that comes through.

“When Covid happened, it took everyone by surprise. Operators were getting desperate. They were struggling and needed to get their voices heard and felt they weren’t being heard enough.”

Bamber added that the move was not about “wiping out” the CPT and attracting all of its existing members and he estimated just 20% of coach operator licence holders were CPT members. “It just creating a different path,” he said. “You could be members of both.”

A CPT spokesman said 2021 would be a crucial year for the coach industry as it looked to get passengers back on board:

“CPT is best placed to help the industry achieve this,” the spokesman said. “CPT has unrivalled access to decision makers across government, the media and other stakeholders who are all central to decisions that impact coach operators.

“Members also benefit from unlimited advice on all compliance and operational matters from a range of subject matter experts as well as bespoke offers and services from a range of commercial partners. This level of service and expertise is not available anywhere else.”

The RHA brand will be retained but a new logo will be introduced and the words ‘Road Haulage Association’ will be phased out and replaced with a new strap line ‘RHA, driving business on our roads’.