AN EAST Lancashire coach company has taken part in a public “Honk for Hope” rally to raise awareness about the challenges the coaching industry has faced during the pandemic period.

Accrington-based Cranberry Coachways Ltd has worked with schools across the county for over 20 years, taking children on trips to museums, beaches and theme parks.

However, since the onset of the coronavirus crisis the firm has been unable to operate.

Owner and managing director Christine Dixon said: “We haven’t turned a wheel since March 20 and now pubs, restaurants, salons and everything are going back but we’ve got nothing until September.”

She added: “If it carries on past September, I just don’t know how the coaching industry is going to survive.”

The company has had 20 vehicles lying stationary since lockdown began, and other than the government’s £10,000 grant has had little by way of support.

In response, “Honk for Hope” saw 95 coaches from various companies nationwide gather at Lightwater Valley, North Yorkshire, to make a public appeal to the government for help.

Ms Dixon said: “We just want a bit of recognition really, we’re the people who take children to school and take them on trips and we’ve had nothing.”

The event was organised by Jenna Rush, managing director of Seaton Burn-based North East Coach Travel, and Matthew Forsyth, general manager of Northumberland operator M J Forsyth Travel.

The event took place alongside concurrent gatherings in Germany and Poland.

Ms Rush said: “It was intended as a grassroots show of support, showing that we’re in need of help.”

She added: “Coronavirus has decimated the coaching industry and as a result we’re currently operating at 2% of our normal capacity so we’ve sent a letter to the Chancellor asking for financial help and looking for a bespoke furlough agreement for drivers.”

Ms Rush said coach firms have had to invest a great deal in government health and safety, environmental and disability accessibility regulations in recent years, and as such should be entitled to government support for their vital industry.

Further gatherings are planned.