A NUMBER of family-run coach firms across Greater Manchester - including two in Oldham - are protesting over the speed at which clean air zones across are set to come into force.

The introduction of £100-a-day-charges for their vehicles to travel on the city region's local roads by the summer of 2021 will make their businesses unviable and force them to close down, they believe.

Firms say the coach repair and maintenance sector does not have the capacity to adapt the exhausts on their vehicles - costing £20,000 per bus - to enable the companies to comply with emission regulations by that deadline.

In addition, they say there is a shortage of compliant new coaches - costing about £220,000 each - even if the companies could afford to buy them.

And, because of the compliance regulations, their existing coaches, which would normally be used as a deposit in part exchange for a new bus, will be rendered worthless.

The companies say they do not object to the emissions regulations, but more at the speed they are being introduced, with little regard to the continued viability of their businesses.

Ninety-year-old Healings International Coaches, based in Higginshaw Lane, Royton, is Oldham's oldest coach firm.

Its vehicles transport local schoolchildren and take pensioners on day trips and holidays in the UK, turning a small profit each year.

Transport manager Robert Doe told The Oldham Times: "I believe the way the clean air zone is being introduced will close our company down.

"Haulage companies will need to renew their vehicles in a short time frame, but this would be impossible for us as a new coach costs £220,000 and we would need four to renew our fleet.

"If it were possible for us to buy four new coaches and the majority of other operators decided to upgrade to new coaches, there aren't enough coach builders to meet the supply needs to replace all the coaches that meet the new emissions standards.

"We could have an exhaust upgrade at around £20,000, but for our four coaches that would cost £80,000.

"This is going to decimate the coaching industry and leave only the large companies to dominate."

Robert's views were echoed by Brendan Newall, who founded Kmatt Coaches, based in Stock Lane, Chadderton, 30 years ago.

He said that the average lifespan of a coach was 15 to 20 years, but the "residual value" of his five coaches is set to be wiped out by the new regulations.

"We've just sold one of our coaches which you would normally expect to fetch about £29,000, for £10,000 - so these proposals are already affecting us."

Brendan said that although the issues raised by the group have been put to Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) there is "a lack of straight answers".

TfGM is working with the 10 local authorities to develop the clean air plan to tackle to tackle NO2 exceedances at the roadside. The current proposals include a Greater Manchester-wide clean air zone.

The government asking local authorities across the country to act "as soon as possible". 

Greater Manchester is asking for funding to help affected people and businesses upgrade to clearner vehicles and avoid a charge.

A £59 million freight fund includes coaches which don’t run registered, timetabled services. The £29 million bus fund includes coaches which run registered bus services.

Other coach firms in the city region and Lancashire objecting to the time frame of the proposals include Mostonian Coaches in Moston, GPD Coaches in Heywood, Orion Coaches, Openshaw, Elite Coaches Stockport Bullocks Coaches in Cheadle and Cranberry Coaches in Blackburn.

A spokesperson for Clean Air Greater Manchester - managed by TfGM - said: “We have engaged with the coach industry while developing the Clean Air Plan proposals and heard and understand their concerns. We will continue to engage with coach companies as the measures in the proposed plan are developed further, and the detailed proposals will also be subject to a statutory public consultation in the future.”