A north-east coach operator fears he might lose his business – just months after his wife who helped set up the firm died.
Bain’s Coaches of Oldmeldrum are “seriously concerned” about their future after a drop in services and customers due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Employing 30 people, Bain’s was founded in 1975 by Wilma and Dougie Main and – from humble beginnings in Kemnay – has evolved to become one of the longest-established private coach firms in the north-east.
Mrs Bain, a “well-kent and helpful” member of the community, died in June.
Now, a distraught Mr Bain said he is worried about the future of their firm if revenues continued to remain low.
A reduction in services including its route linking Oldemldrum, Kemnay and Inverurie as well as having no income from private charters to the Perth Races, football matches and corporate events have forced the company into an uncertain future.
Mr Bain said: “We have been a successful local business especially during these past 20 years, but the pandemic has floored us.
“I have not needed the bank’s overdraft for a long time but at the moment it is the only thing keeping us going.
“We run a commercial route linking Oldmeldrum, Kemnay and Inverurie but had to cut the service by 50% which is a lifeline for people but the buses are half the frequency.
“The cruise ship business also disappeared overnight. We used to run trips from Inverness to Loch Ness and the expectation is that they won’t return for another two years.”
Calls have now been made for the Scottish Government to implement a discounted ticket scheme to help independent bus companies.
Scottish Conservative candidate for East Aberdeenshire Stewart Whyte has written to Nicola Sturgeon over the issue.
He and Mr Bain hope that a discounted ticket scheme could be introduced or other new initatives that could bolster the north-east’s trade.
In his letter, Mr Whye writes: “A positive and active campaign of reassuring the public to use public transport would be very helpful.
“A discounted ticket scheme to generate a buzz and encourage passengers to come back inspired by the Eat Out to Help scheme which is something which needs to be considered.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We do not underestimate the devastating impact this pandemic has had on the coach industry, and the sector has been among those to benefit from our £2.3billion package of measures to support Scottish businesses, including through the £120million Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund to support viable but vulnerable SMEs that are vital to the local, regional or national economy, and business support funds, administered by local authorities on behalf of the Scottish Government.
“Following engagement with the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK and Coach Tourism Association the Tourism Secretary has pressed the UK Government to address the specific needs of the coach industry, including an extension to the Job Retention Scheme.”