Thursday, 24 October 2019

McGill's MD Criticises Local & National Government for Favouring Cars & Trains

McGill’s Buses Managing Director Ralph Roberts has criticised local and national government for “favouring the car and train” over buses. He says the bulk of infrastructure money goes to those modes despite buses delivering 74% of public transport journeys.

“Buses receive peppercorn levels of infrastructure investment,” he adds. The Greenock operator carries almost 750,000 passengers per week and since 2014 it has invested around £21m in its fleet.

McGill’s Buses Managing Director Ralph Roberts 

The McGill’s chief, who has given evidence to the Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, said: “The first thing they (the government) have to do is acknowledge there is a problem. There is no quick fix to this. It has taken almost decades to get to this situation we have with roads.”

Mr Roberts went on: “It is going to take policy to change that. Only when they do that can we start working with local authorities, [and] with utilities who are digging up roads and causing mass disruption out there. It is not just bus passengers that get disruption, it is any road user.

“And part of that problem is that the infrastructure is swamped in many areas.
Mr Roberts says that McGill’s is in discussions with government at both local and national levels to release more funding for buses. Local politicians see doing so as a high-risk strategy that may lead to a voter backlash.

“They need to remember that bus users are also voters,” he adds.

However, he accepts that it is unsurprising that Renfrewshire – where the bulk of McGill’s revenues are earned – chooses to prioritise cars. Renfrewshire has the highest car ownership in Scotland.Mr Roberts was speaking after McGill’s revealed its financial results for the year ending December 2018. On a turnover of £38m it recorded a pre-tax profit of £1.4m, an increase on 2017.

However, the operator recorded a drop in passenger numbers that it believes has been driven by high street decline. Echoing Mr Roberts’ views, Director Sandy Easdale has called for more investment in waiting facilities and better management of car parking and roadworks.

The company, owned by brothers James and Sandy Easdale, made commitments totalling £3.8 million for new vehicles last year, when it introduced 27 new buses to its fleet. The average lifespan of its buses ranges from 12 to 15 years.