Economy & Politics

Bus companies face gigantic wave of bankruptcy

It is uncertain whether Thomas Schlüter’s bus company will survive the corona crisis. “I am an optimistic person and hope that we will not have to file for bankruptcy at the end of the year. But I don’t see how we can do it, ”says Schlueter Its 70 employees have been working 100 percent short-time since March. None of his 20 buses rolls from his courtyard in Berlin’s Tempelhof district.

Since the outbreak of the corona pandemic, the bus industry has been facing a wave of cancellations. With the ban on bus travel on 17 March at the latest, all vehicles came to a standstill. In the meantime, some companies have resumed business, but the Corona standstill could mean the end of hundreds of traditional companies.

“I really don’t know any way out at the moment. The entire charter area is dead ”. And even if the travel warnings are lifted, no new orders come in. People are very cautious and fearful. “It seems that the Germans have accepted that they will go on vacation in their own country this year and travel by car,” says Schlüter. The booking situation is catastrophic.

For this reason, around 1,000 buses from all over Germany will be rolling to Berlin for the second time in a very short space of time in order to request political compensation – in the hope of being heard this time.

Grants for time of driving bans

In order to avoid an insolvency wave in the bus industry, the industry is demanding concrete subsidies for the time of the general driving bans. The maximum limit for bridging aids is arbitrary and too low and does not do justice to the industry with its high investment costs. According to Schlueter, financing a bus costs an average of 4,000 euros a month. The support of 50,000 euros over three months is really a lot of money. “But with zero income, I make a loss of 80,000 euros in one month alone.”

Also because the running costs in bus tourism are so high and revenues are concentrated in a short period of time, the BDO association demands industry-specific help from the state. After all, there are no possibilities to replace the actual business with digital alternatives or to offer it to a limited extent. “The previous help just allows companies to start up again,” says BDO general manager Christiane Leonard According to the association’s calculations, the bus travel ban alone consumed 170 million euros in maintenance costs. The high drop in sales and repayment obligations have not yet been taken into account in this sum.

In contrast to rail or air traffic and the large travel groups, there is no rescue package for medium-sized companies in the bus industry. “You don’t see us bus operators at all,” says Schlüter. He doesn’t think the industry will get away with a black eye without government aid. With the help of KfW loans, companies could only survive for a few months. After all, the money had to be paid back. “But I can’t rent a bus twice to pay the installments. The problem is only shifting. “

Higher requirements for the bus industry

According to the BDO, the resumption of coach traffic is sluggish because the conditions vary from state to state and there are strict requirements that go far beyond the requirements of trains and planes. There is no need to adhere to the distance rule for long-distance trains and air traffic. “Regardless of whether in air, rail or bus traffic: the same standards and hygiene regulations should apply to all means of transport,” says Leonard.

Even if the buses are now rolling again, according to the BDO, regeneration of the bus industry is not possible in the long term, since bus trips would have to be planned well in advance and trips would not simply be made up for. The industry association criticizes that the federal government’s stimulus package for the bus industry will not save the world without precisely tailored direct financial aid.

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