Popular local bus company stands down drivers, faces uncertain future

Jeff Chalker with his grounded buses. Photo: Megan Dunn.
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The wheels of one of Penrith’s biggest privately owned charter operators have come to a halt as a result of the new Coronavirus response regulations.

Compass Tours and Penrith Bus Company, which is based in Werrington, has had to suspend all their coach vehicles.

Owner Jeff Chalker, who has run the business for 15 years, said that now all their services cannot run.

“We service around 70 per cent of schools in the area with excursions and school sport along with senior’s coach tours, airport transfers and corporate work but all of that has stopped,” Mr Chalker said.

“We also do the rail replacement when the trains don’t run on weekends and emergency rail replacement, but we can’t rely on that as it isn’t consistent.”

Preparing for the potential consequences, Mr Chalker said his main priority was his staff. Unfortunately, he’s already had to let some go.

“We went to recruitment agencies to try to reposition them, so some are running groceries and others are working in distribution centres,” Mr Chalker said.

“I have had to stand down all of my 50 bus drivers though so they can try for the job seeker payment and I am not even sure if they will want jobs in the transport industry after all of this.”

Deregistering 55 vehicles out of their 60-vehicle fleet as a part of their emergency plan, Mr Chalker said more needs to be done to support the industry.

“The government is supporting the airline industry and I know there are all different people affected but the ground transport industry will suffer, and I think around a third of bus companies will shut down completely,” Mr Chalker said.

“I know our customers will support us when we come back but it’s a case of trying to figure out how we will navigate this uncertain time while having no revenue and minimal support.”

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