Bid to reduce congestion
McGill’s lures ‘lost passengers’ with high-tech buses
Sandy Easdale: ‘vital that we cut congestion’
Bus company boss Sandy Easdale said his company is investing heavily in new technology and improved comfort to help lure more travellers out of their cars.
The co-owner of McGill’s, which has just taken delivery of a new fleet of low-emission buses, said that providing new vehicles and ensuring they meet the demands of modern passengers is vital to cutting congestion on the roads.
Recent data shows a decline in bus use, partly because of changing consumer habits, such as fewer shoppers heading into town centres, but also because of dissatisfaction over reliability and cutbacks in routes. The government has reduced concessionary grants because of budget cuts.
McGill’s ordered 26 buses from Falkirk manufacturer Alexander Dennis last November to serve Glasgow and the west of Scotland in a deal worth £4.75 million. The vehicles are equipped with the latest technology for passengers, including free on-board Wi-Fi and a USB charging socket for smart phones on every seat. They also exceed the Glasgow Low Emission Zone (LEZ) standard which came into effect in the city centre on 31 December.
Mr Easdale, unveiling the new fleet today, said: “We’ve made more than £30m of investment in our operations over the past five years, with around £24m focused on new fleet and nearly £7m of infrastructure investment including ticket machines, real time tracking, mobile and contactless ticketing and smart card systems.
“Most politicians and policymakers agree that it is vital that we encourage the public to reduce their car journeys and cut congestion in the process. However, ditching the car only becomes an appealing prospect to people when we are investing in state-of-the-art buses such as those we are now unveiling.
“We’ve recently seen the Scottish Government deliver a swingeing cut to the latest payment to operators to deliver its free concessionary travel scheme. This is simply because they do not have the budget to fund what they believe to be a vote winner and instead transfer the cost on to operators.
“We cannot pass this cut onto our hard-working staff or our fuel suppliers. Instead, we run the risk of less profitable routes not continuing or future investment in new vehicles being curtailed. The money we have lost would pay for at least one or two of these new buses so we have to think carefully about our approach moving forward.”
McGill’s CEO Ralph Roberts believes the new fleet is further evidence of private operators investing to benefit the wider economy.
“Funding for the new fleet has been found privately with no public subsidies provided. Only by running a profitable business can we invest in the very latest vehicles and it is vital that the government now provides the conditions conducive to allow us to invest further.”