Scotland business

Bus firm tells politicians: 'We are not the enemy'

McGill's buses Image copyright McGill's

A Scottish bus company has urged politicians to "get over their fascination with the train" and stop treating buses as "the enemy".

Ralph Roberts, managing director of McGill's, said local and national government should accept their responsibility in managing road space and taxation of private motoring.

The comments came as the Greenock-based company released its accounts for 2016, which reflected a "challenging year for the bus industry, not only in Scotland but UK-wide".

"Ultra-cheap car ownership, depressed fuel prices, online retailing, increased congestion resulting in longer bus journeys and stretched household budgets have all contribute to a sustained decline in footfall," wrote Mr Roberts.

He said the firm had invested in ticketing equipment, new vehicles and a central control facility.

Public investment

In addition, there has been "an increased cost base from congestion, roadworks, staff wages, regulatory costs and a 20% increase in the cost of new buses".

McGill's Buses, controlled by the Easdale family, runs services across North Ayrshire, Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, Glasgow and Lanarkshire,

Revenue during 2016 rose to £39.5m from £38.3m the previous year. Pre-tax profit was down from £3.5m to £2m.

The company employed an average 831 staff during last year.

"Government and politicians have to get over their fascination with the train," said Mr Roberts.

"Over 80% of public transport journeys made are made on buses. Trains carry relatively few in comparison to buses, yet seem to take all of the headlines, political attention and public purse investment.

"Bus companies have limited ability to reverse the current footfall decline as almost all of the factors driving it are external.

"Local authorities and national government need to accept their role in road space management and that the cost of private motoring falls upon the motorist, not the economy in general. The bus is part of the solution, not the enemy."

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