McGill’s Group has announced that it is to cease its bus services in West Lothian. The operator took over West Lothian services from First Scotland East in late 2022, and says that since then it has injected a total of £4.5million into its renamed Eastern Scottish business to turn it around. Despite the investment, a mixture of one-off investment and ongoing subsidy from McGill’s Group and its owners, the company says the ailing business has faced constant challenges on a number of fronts including ‘head-to-head competition from a nearby publicly subsidised operator, which entered the market several years ago.’ This, alongside a new electrified railway, has meant that its routes to Edinburgh have had to contend with competition as well as the challenges of the capital’s roadworks, diversions and congestion, the firm said, compounded by historical and current issues at the business, including driver shortages and long-term, sustained passenger decline.
McGill’s Group said it would enter into consultation with staff and union representatives at Eastern Scottish but said it was committed to avoiding redundancies where possible. The operator intends to cease services X22 and X24 between Livingston and Edinburgh from 15 October, directing passengers to Lothian Country routes 72, X27 and X28, and to cease services 21, 23, 25 and 26 from 2 December.
CEO Ralph Roberts said: “It is deeply regrettable that we are having to cease our West Lothian services and we recognise the angst and uncertainty this will cause for our team members and passengers in the area. 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.
“However, despite investing around £4.5million in Eastern Scottish operations, we have now come to the conclusion that the ongoing losses are simply unsustainable. Inflationary pressures have meant costs have been rising substantially at the same time revenue is continually slipping, with passenger numbers showing long-term decline – not helped by significant competition.
“McGill’s will be entering into dialogue with staff, union representatives and various local stakeholders to see what can be achieved but it is our firm hope that compulsory redundancies can be avoided. We thank our customers who use these routes for their patience and as a business, we will do all we can to make the transition as straightforward as it can be in terms of future journey planning and ticketing.
“We believe that we have done all we can to make our West Lothian operation work, but we need to recognise that with the challenges that exist, we have fallen short. Too many operators serving too few customers for too long has destabilised the marketplace in West Lothian.”