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Inverness coach hire firm D&E Coaches says urgent help is needed to save family firms

By Gregor White

Donald Mathieson of D&E Coaches.
Donald Mathieson of D&E Coaches.

The head of D&E Coaches says the industry will be reduced to a shell unless it receives financial help.

Donald Mathieson, who founded D & E Coaches with his wife Elizabeth 24 years ago, has 85 staff and 65 vehicles.

“We keep reading about airlines, airports and railways in talks about receiving help, and billionaire Richard Branson pleading poverty,” he said. "But most people travel by coach – and how are they to get there without operators?

“When schools go back in August, there will be not enough operators left to transport pupils. We need immediate government and local authority help to enable us to survive."

The firm is continuing to undertake essential deliveries for the blood transfusion service and to nursing homes but Mr Mathieson continued: "We had record bookings for the next few months to transport over 10,000 cruise line passengers from harbours such as Invergordon, Oban and Portree to major visitor attractions such as Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and Dunrobin Castle.

“But last week these bookings vanished overnight. But when the cruise ships return, and find not enough coaches left to cater for them, they will simply forget about this area.

“Think of all the visitor attractions which will be financially hit if the coaches vanish and the cruise liners depart.”

Kevin Mayne is the managing director of Maynes of Buckie which employs 70 staff and has a fleet of 42 vehicles.

As a member of the Scottish executive of Coach Passenger Transpor he said it is pushing council umbrella group COSLA and the Scottish Government finance and transport ministers as well as the First Minister to recognise the scale of the threat to the industry.

“I maintain close links with the Job Centre in Scotland, which normally has 100 coach drivers seeking a job – by the weekend 2500 drivers had contacted them, concerned about their future,” he said.

“When the virus peak has passed, the coaches needed to take people to and from the graveside, weddings, hotels, railway stations and top sporting fixtures may simply be unavailable unless support happens soon.

"Scotland’s coach hire infrastructure can be wiped out if those who could help don’t realise the enormity of our plight.

“Our role is to take people where they want to be. But that capability faces virtual extinction without help to tide us over.

"We need a ‘loss of use’ rebate to cover direct losses to ensure coach firms are here next year.”

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