Coach operator, Aircoach, has said it will be "more financially viable" to leave their coaches lying idle rather than have them operate within current social distancing guidelines.
Current guidance states that overall capacity on public transport is "extremely restricted" due to the two-metre social distancing restriction. Aircoach has suspended all its services until August.
The private bus and coach operator is calling on the Government for clarity and financial support on re-starting and sustaining the industry as the country moves through the Covid-19 Roadmap.
In March, the majority of Ireland’s private coach and bus companies, which employ 11,500 full-time staff, ground to a halt as a result of the pandemic and Aircoach said it is uncertain as to whether or not the industry will be in a position to sustain pre-Covid services in the coming months.
Prior to Covid-19, Aircoach operated five 24-hour services connecting Dublin Airport, Dublin City Centre, Belfast, Cork, Greystones, Bray, Leopardstown, Killiney and Dalkey.
However, Dervla McKay, Managing Director of Aircoach, said the industry needs clarity and short term financial support from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in order to resume services.
Ms McKay said, “As per the Government’s guidelines, transport providers are to actively restrict and monitor passenger numbers to ensure compliance with social distancing.
While we completely understand the need to restrict passenger numbers, this will mean that with the current two-meter restriction in place, a total of 11 passengers will be able to travel on our coaches instead of a normal 49.
"In order to meet demand, as well as having a viable business, we will need to almost double our fleet. The industry hasn’t received clarity on this issue from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport which is very much needed.”
Ms McKay added that it won’t be financially viable for most of the country’s private operators, including Aircoach, to resume business without short-term support from the Government.
She said: "While we are grateful to avail of the current wage subsidy scheme for our employees, support will be needed to resume and protect services while restrictions are in place.
"As restrictions ease and demand increases, it may also be necessary to operate additional coaches due to the reduced capacity per coach. The safety of our passengers is of utmost importance to us and always has been but the industry will need support from the Government."
The coach operator is preparing its fleet with additional safety measures to protect customers and employees, but Ms McKay added that “with the current measures in place, it is more financially viable to leave our coaches at the depot than putting them out on the road.”