McGill’s Group is to end its Eastern Scottish operations in West Lothian. The parent cites “huge competition” on routes to Edinburgh, along with roadworks and congestion in the Scottish capital, driver recruitment, and declining patronage, as reasons for its decision.
Two routes will be withdrawn from 15 October, with four more ending from 2 December. Those services have been part of the McGill’s operation for less than a year after they came with the former First Scotland East business that was acquired in late 2022. Three other routes operated under contract to Edinburgh City Council will continue “at the present time.”
Eastern Scottish and Midland Bluebird identities were quickly introduced to that operation. Midland Bluebird, which operates in Falkirk and Stirling, is unaffected by the announcement. Since the purchase, McGill’s has invested £4.5 million in attempting to turn around Eastern Scottish, but it remains what is described as “an ailing business.”
Consultation with staff will begin shortly, but the owning group is “committed to avoiding redundancies where possible.” Competition cited includes from rail, but also from the Lothian Country arm of Lothian Buses. While not named, McGill’s describes it as a “publicly subsidised operator which entered the market several years ago.”
McGill’s Group CEO Ralph Roberts says it is “deeply regrettable” that the Eastern Scottish services will end. “We were fully aware of the challenges that existed for the business in West Lothian when we took over late last year, and throughout that period, we have strived to make changes that might place the operation onto an even keel in the medium- to long-term,” he explains.
“However, despite investing around £4.5 million in Eastern Scottish operations, we have now come to the conclusions that ongoing losses are simply unsustainable. Inflationary pressures have meant costs have been rising substantially at the same time that revenue is continually slipping, with passenger numbers showing long-term decline – not helped by significant competition.
“Too many operators serving too few customers for too long has destabilised the market in West Lothian.”
The two routes that will go in October are services X22 and X24 between Livingston and Edinburgh, for which alternatives exist via Lothian Country. In December, services 21, 23, 25 and 26, which are Livingston area locals, will end. McGill’s says it is consulting with the local authority on the latter, and that news is hoped for in due course on possible successors.