Glasgow bus firm threaten SPT with legal action over plans to take Glaswegian bus services under public control

Scottish bus firm McGill's have hinted that they may take legal action if SPT continues plans to take bus services in Glasgow under public control
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A bus firm has warned it could take legal action over any plans to bring bus services in the Glasgow area under public control.

Campaigners are expected to make their voices heard tomorrow (Friday) as members of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) meet to discuss proposals for the future of bus services across the region.

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There is a recommendation to start work on establishing local bus franchising. It could allow SPT to control the bus network and “direct the outcomes it desires”.

Activists from Better Buses for Strathclyde are set to hold a rally outside SPT’s offices ahead of the meeting. However, bus company McGill’s has said franchising would amount to “theft of private business” and would ill serve both passengers and taxpayers.

The recommendations to go before SPT members state that franchising provides the greatest certainty of making significant improvement to the network, achieving passenger growth and better accessibility for all.

However, the report estimates the cost of getting the franchising process to the point of implementation is around £15m, and could take between five to seven years.

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Therefore, actions to see more immediate improvements are also recommended. These include a proposal to progress with Bus Service Improvements Partnerships (BSIP) in the medium term.

The partnerships involve “private and public sector commitments to arrest further passenger decline and improve the bus network over the medium term”, the report states.

Public consultation on the recommendations is planned to start in April.

SPT chief executive Valerie Davidson said: “While local bus franchising offers the greatest certainty for the best outcomes, it will take time to establish, and maintaining the status quo in that time is not sustainable.

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“The facts are we need to do something now to halt the declining bus market and BSIPs, supported by suitable investment, offer scope for significant interim improvement which could start that work while we begin the process of establishing a local franchise model and start to build for growth.”

A petition from Better Buses for Strathclyde has amassed over 10,000 signatures. It calls for public control of the region’s buses, and states: “Re-regulating the private bus companies (through ‘franchising’ will mean SPT can plan bus routes to serve our communities’ needs and to connect seamlessly with trains, ferries and Glasgow’s Subway.

“They can cut fares and deliver one simple, affordable ticket across all transport modes — like Greater Manchester is now doing.”

In a social media post, Cllr Angus Millar, SNP, the city’s transport convener, said the council supports “exploring bus franchising to bring Greater Glasgow’s bus network into public control”.

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He added: “It’s important to see recognition that a franchising system for Glasgow would require significant public investment to run and to develop the business case for.

“We will be making the case for transformative investment in Glasgow’s public transport network from national government.”

McGill's said that taking bus services in Glasgow under public control would be tantamount to "theft of private business"  Pic: Michael GillenMcGill's said that taking bus services in Glasgow under public control would be tantamount to "theft of private business"  Pic: Michael Gillen
McGill's said that taking bus services in Glasgow under public control would be tantamount to "theft of private business" Pic: Michael Gillen

Cllr Millar also said franchising could “take a number of years to come to fruition” and it’s important to work with bus providers “to secure improvements to Glasgow’s bus network now and in coming years”.

Bus firm McGill’s, owned by Sandy and James Easdale, has said legal action could be taken over the plan. The company’s CEO, Ralph Roberts, said: “Franchising is effectively confiscation of a business that has been built in good faith over many years with investors’ funds and it raises a host of legal implications.

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“It goes against every sense of natural justice and we would take this to every court in the land and beyond.”

He added he “cannot imagine how they are going to find £100m per year to subsidise franchised bus services in Strathclyde

“Bus use is declining because local authorities haven’t done their job to help bus users,” he claimed. “Our advice is simple and based on proven experience from around the world — remove buses from congestion and take business confiscation off the table. 

“These two simple steps will build trust and show that this is about bus users rather than a power trip for politicians and quangos, most of whom never set foot on a bus.

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“SPT’s own transport plan states that bus users should get priority over car users. Councillors are terrified to do this as they fear they would lose their job. Instead, they want taxpayers to fund an expensive and inefficient new system where buses remain stuck in traffic and car users get eleven times more road space than a bus user.”

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