Northern Irish travel and transport company East Coast Coaches has had to sell some of its coaches and has expanded its services to include haulage work due to the impact that the continuing COVID-19 pandemic has had on its business.
As reported by The Irish News, with the majority of its 25 coaches being out of service since last March due to the pandemic, East Coast Coaches, the pre-pandemic primary services of which were concert transport, wedding work, private tours and school runs, has sold its two most expensive coaches and used the money it received from the sales to purchase four lorries and a recovery vehicle so that it could launch a haulage service.
The company's launch of a haulage service comes as newly-published accounts for East Coast Transport Ltd reveal that when the company's books closed on June 30, 2020, shareholder funds amounted to just £97.
"No Choice But To Look At Diversifying"
Speaking to The Irish News, East Coast Coaches transport manager Sean Connolly said, "While the government is constantly promising support, it simply isn't providing it quickly enough.
"We haven't received a single penny yet, bar furlough payments for our staff.
"I was simply exasperated, and I just couldn't look at those empty coaches any longer.
"I have to put food on the table, so until the tourism industry gets back on its feet, I had no choice but to look at diversifying."
Connolly has taken a lorry test and retained some of the company's drivers in the hope that they can get back behind the wheel of a coach or drive a lorry, and the company's new haulage division could benefit from increased Brexit trade, but Connolly acknowledged that the new business move is a risk.
He continued, "We've had some enquiries but no definite business as yet, and at this stage we're not pinning ourselves down to local or all-Ireland business, or groupage, or any specific aspect of haulage.
"We'll have a look at whatever comes our way and will only do what we are able to do with our modest fleet."
"Zero Financial Support"
Connolly added, "We have the experience, professionalism, expertise and efficiency of a well-organised business, and before COVID we were heading for a record year.
"Yet despite the best efforts of lobby organisations like Bus and Coach NI, the company has had zero financial support.
"We seem to have fallen through all the cracks.
"We were ruled out of the Micro-business Hardship Fund because we have 11 full-time employees and the £10,000 grant was only going to businesses with up to nine employees.
"We haven't received the coach package yet, but we were turned down for the taxi package because our drivers are full-time and not part-time. We haven't got a penny in support, just loans.
"While our coaches are lying idle, and some hadn't had a fill of diesel since March 11 last year, they still need maintained and they still need starting in the yard, and we're out a fortune in batteries."
© 2021 Hospitality Ireland – your source for the latest industry news. Article by Dave Simpson. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.