05 February 2008

Citylink divest Scottish services

Scottish Citylink - once owned by National Express but sold when the latter won the franchise to operate ScotRail train service in Scotland - signed a deal on 12 September 2005 with Stagecoach, who at the time was trying to expand its megabus.com operation within Scotland and had recently purchased the Motorvator business whose primary route was between Glasgow-Edinburgh. The deal saw Stagecoach acquire a 35% steak in the ComfortDelGro-owned Scottish Citylink (operated by Braddell plc) and certain rights to its megabus.com and Motorvator businesses were transferred over; the Motorvator brand soon disappeared.

In October 2006 a number of routes, dubbed the "Saltire Cross" routes, came under scrutiny by the Competition Commission, who ruled that these routes (linking Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness generally through Perth) could be operated in a way that could lead to price-fixing and would not offer the best deal to the passenger.

Despite these claims being vehemently denied and opposed in the strongest terms not just by the operators concerned, but industry insiders, SMPs and transport journalists, the Competition Commission confirmed its October 2006 decision in May 2007 and ordered the routes be divested. Yesterday, Scottish Citylink Coaches Limited (the full name given to the joint venture) confirmed the divestment had been completed with affected routes going to Park's of Hamilton Ltd.

The citylink.co.uk and megabus.com websites both continue to offer a full range of journey options including those that have been divested to Parks, a measure which at least ensures the transition period is likely to cause minimal disruption to passengers unaware of last May's decision.

Stagecoach continues to own a 35% share of Scottish Citylink and Singapore-based ComfortDelGro's Braddell plc subsidiary owns the remaining 65%. (GL)