Will we be holidaying 'on the buses' post-Brexit?

The logistics of getting exports in and out of the UK have been discussed widely, but what about holidaymakers looking to explore Europe on a coach or bus?

A ‘hard’ Brexit scenario could have an adverse impact on operations and could ultimately prevent or limit coach and bus operations within the EU. Even a ‘soft’ Brexit outcome would bring limitations on international activities, additional costs and an adverse impact on demand for services – highlighting added pressure to UK coach operators and uncertainty for holidaymakers post-Brexit.

If there is ‘no deal’ after the UK’s exit then UK coach operators could no longer rely on automatic recognition of their UK issued Operators Licences, Certificate of Professional Competence’s (CPC) and Community Licences which allows them to operate through Europe. Ultimately, EU countries may recognise that UK issued operator licences and associated authorisations are based on the same standards as EU Community Licences and not require further authorisations; but this is not guaranteed, and coach and bus operators need further clarity from the Government on the detail.

As the UK’s participation in the Interbus Agreement (IA) by virtue of its membership of the EU then the UK would no longer be covered by this deal. However, the UK Government has stated it will apply to re-enter into the IA as an independent party. Whilst the UK Government aims to be a member of this agreement by the Brexit date, the Government has stated that there is a chance it might be ‘as soon as possible thereafter’ – highlighting a potential gap in service for UK operators on Brexit day.

However, comfort can be taken from the fact that, the IA is a reciprocal agreement and a number of operators based in other EU member states will want continued access to the UK. Therefore, it’s in everyone’s interest to ensure that the UK are a party to the IA sooner rather than later.

The Government has stated that should the UK not have entered into the IA before Brexit, they will attempt to make bilateral agreements with EU Member States to ensure operations can continue. There is no definite timeline or deadline stating when the Government estimates these will be in place. Once the IA has been signed or bilateral agreement reached, UK companies operating coaches will be able to drive in the EU for occasional services. In the absence of extending the terms of the IA to cover special or regular services, UK based bus and coach operators will be limited to occasional services.

The uncertainty of Brexit will put increased pressure on UK based bus and coach operators operating in the EU. Brexit could cause a number of financial implications for UK coach operators. These include the cost of coach drivers having to obtain EU equivalent of a CPC and UK coach operators having to apply direct to the EU for an operator licence.

A recent survey undertaken, identified that the British public is concerned that a ‘no deal’ outcome could cause severe travel delays across the transport network, particularly at ports. The perceived delays could cause customers of coach operators not to book European coach tours and seek alternative holidays thereby increasing the financial pressure on coach operators due to a loss of income.

In order to prepare for Brexit, some UK coach operators might consider sub-contracting their EU based work. This will involve UK operators finding third party EU-based operators who they are happy working with. Such UK operators will also need to ensure that their terms and conditions permit them to sub-contract part or all of the relevant journeys to other coach operators.

Regardless, all coach firms travelling abroad should also consider the associated risks and Brexit impact on their business; and plan for such an eventuality.