UK taxpayers are subsidising the rail industry by £1m per hour, to run trains that are virtually empty. The government put in place a £12bn support package to prevent train operators facing financial collapse when fare income fell to nothing due to the pandemic lockdown. The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, was quoted as saying “We have, during the pandemic, stepped in to save every single rail job without exceptions.”
A spokesperson for Abta, the travel association, said “The remarks made by the transport secretary about saving every rail job are welcome, but we need this government to commit to supporting travel agents and tour operators through what will continue to be a gradual restart of international travel.”
“Travel will be the most restricted economic sector coming out of the pandemic and this needs to be recognised through the targeted extension of employment support, such as furlough, keeping full business rates relief, and adequate recovery grants to help businesses through to recovery.”
“Two hundred thousand jobs have already been lost – amongst travel agents, TMCs, tour operators, cruise lines and airlines, with around 70 per cent of staff still on furlough.
Paul Goldstein, a travel industry veteran who is co-owner of Kicheche Safari Lodges in Kenya, said: “What Mr Shapps patently does not care for is the travel industry, butchered with a tortuous trinity of traffic lights, corridors and quarantine.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said “We recognise the challenging times facing all sectors of transport as a result of Covid-19, which is why we have put in place a world-beating support package, including around £7bn of support benefitting the air transport sector.”
This figure is the estimated spending until the end of September 2021 and comes in the form of loan guarantees from the Bank of England’s Covid corporate financing and furloughing facility. Through this the government says airlines, airports and ground handlers are receiving help.