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Hundreds of empty coaches join Honk For Hope protest convoy in London

The protest follows ministers’ rejection of support proposals.

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(Josh Dore/CPT/PA)

(Josh Dore/CPT/PA)

(Josh Dore/CPT/PA)

Hundreds of coach drivers have been honking their way around Parliament Square in a bid to draw attention to the crisis facing the industry due to coronavirus.

The Honk For Hope protest has seen around 500 coaches from across the country make their way to central London in convoy.

The Metropolitan Police issued a warning to the demonstrators after complaints from the Palace of Westminster over the noise from their horns.

Many social media users spotted the line of buses making its way into the capital along the A4, with the traffic said to reach back several miles.

Coach businesses have said they feel let down by the response of the Government during the coronavirus pandemic, with some claiming they face bankruptcy.

At a time when companies would normally be fully booked with summer tours, many are sitting empty, with staff still on furlough.

With the demand for coach trips falling, many drivers are also struggling to make finance repayments on their vehicles, which can often cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Drivers told the PA news agency they had been left dealing with loans of as much as £450,000.

The protesters are asking the Government for a package of support measures, including financial help to meet these payments and an extension of the furlough scheme for the industry.

Drivers are also asking for the removal of personal guarantees, which leave them personally responsible for the repayments on their buses and could even see them lose their homes if they are unable to keep up with the bills.

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Hundreds of coaches have joined the convoy to London. (Josh Dore)

Hundreds of coaches have joined the convoy to London. (Josh Dore)

Hundreds of coaches have joined the convoy to London. (Josh Dore)

The organiser of the protest, Jenna Rush, from North East Coach Travel, told the PA news agency: “We know that we will not move again until next year, and we cannot meet our finance payments for the rest of the year without some form of government support.

“I have got a coach now where I still owe £160,000 finance, but because of Covid the coach has depreciated to around £100,000.

“So if that (loan) company does not give me any help, and I can’t pay, they will repossess and take it away.

“But there will still be a shortfall of £60,000.

“Because I have a personal guarantee, they’ll then come to me and possibly take my home.

“Every operator is in the position, it’s not just the risk of losing the business, it’s the risk of losing everything.”

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Drivers have said they feel let down by the government during the coronavirus crisis. (CPT)

Drivers have said they feel let down by the government during the coronavirus crisis. (CPT)

Drivers have said they feel let down by the government during the coronavirus crisis. (CPT)

Darren Read, a driver at Bakers, said: “It is just devastating.

“I came back off furlough because we had a few school contracts, but we were only taking out one or two kids and it’s not enough to pay the bills.

“It’s just such an uncertain time.”

PA