Stagecoach Group plc is a leading international transport group operating bus, train, tram, express coach and ferry operations. The group was founded in 1980 by the current chairman, Brian Souter, his sister, Ann Gloag, and her former husband Robin Gloag. The group is based in Perth, Scotland, and has operations in the United Kingdom and North America.
With 16% of the bus market and 25% of the rail market, including its 49% stake in Virgin Trains, as well as being the largest operator of light rail services the company is the second largest transport firm in the United Kingdom close behind its nearest rival First Group. Stagecoach operates over 7,200 vehicles and covers over 90 major towns and cities in Great Britain, carrying around 2.5 million passengers daily. Stagecoach UK Bus employs 18,000 people.
In North America, Stagecoach owns the Coach USA and Coach Canada brands, although the Western and South Central units of the company have been sold to a two different private equity firms, now Coach America and American Coach, with other companies sold to Peter Pan and being rebranded under that name.
Operations in Kenya, Malawi, Portugal, Sweden, Hong Kong and New Zealand have been sold. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange, where it is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.
Stagecoach was born of deregulation in the British express coach market in the early 1980s, though its roots can be traced back to 1976 when Ann Gloag and her husband Robin Gloag set up a small motor caravan and minibus hire business called Gloagtrotter. Ann's accountant brother Brian Souter joined the firm and expanded the business into bus hire. Robin Gloag subsequently sold his shareholding in the business and ceased any involvement in 1982 with the collapse of his marriage to Ann. The Transport Act 1980, which freed express services of 35 miles and over from regulation by the Traffic Commissioner, brought new opportunities for the Perth-based company and services were launched from Dundee to London using second-hand Neoplan coaches. For a while, they offered a very personal service with Brian Souter doing the driving and Ann Gloag making up sandwiches and snacks for the passengers. Successfully competing against the then state-owned National Express and Scottish Citylink, the company grew significantly between 1981 and 1985, when Stagecoach entered local bus operation with the acquisition of McLennan Of Spittalfield, near Perth. Its early success allowed Stagecoach to take advantage of the privatisation of the national bus groups. Several firms were purchased from the National Bus Company, Scottish Bus Group, London Buses and various city councils. The company consolidated its operations during the 1990s by purchasing management and employee owned bus companies, often ex-NBC and SBG firms where the owners were keen to make a huge profit on their sale. Stagecoach left the long distance express coach market in 1988 when it sold its operations to National Express.
In 1996 Porterbrook was sold as in a management-employee buyout and subsequently bought by Stagecoach. Porterbrook is one of the three major Rolling Stock Companies in the United Kingdom which was created in 1994 as part of the privatisation of British Rail, it owns around a third of passenger railway locomotives, multiple units and coaching stock running on Network Rail's system which it leases to various train operators. In April 2000 Abbey National bought Porterbrook from Stagecoach for £773 million.
Stagecoach took another turn in 1998, when it purchased, for £41 million, Scotland's Prestwick Airport. This acquisition looked to be short-lived, however; by the summer of 1999, the company was rumored to have been offered some £80 million for Prestwick. They did however, hold out until January 2001 before selling the airport to concentrate on ground transportation.
A Stagecoach London vehicle, operating London Buses route 30, was destroyed in the 7 July 2005 London bombings and a second was targeted 21 July 2005 London bombings, operating London Buses route 26. Coincidentally, both buses were bound for Hackney. In a tribute to those who lost their lives in the attack, Stagecoach London dedicated a new Alexander Dennis Enviro400, "The Spirit Of London", to London Buses route 30, replacing the vehicle destroyed. The bus was unveiled by the Mayor of London in a ceremony on 3 October 2005.
On 21 November 2005 Stagecoach announced the sale of its New Zealand operations to Infratil for $250.5m NZD (£100m; US$171.6m).
On the 14 December 2005 Stagecoach purchased Barnsley-based Traction Group (Yorkshire Traction) for £26m, and also assume Traction's £11m debt. Traction operated 840 buses in South and West Yorkshire (Yorkshire Traction, Barnsley & District, Yorkshire Terrier), Lincolnshire (RoadCar) and Angus (Strathtay Scottish). Traction was the largest of the remaining privately owned bus operators in the UK before acquisition.
Following the sale of its London bus operations to Macquarie Bank in 2006, Stagecoach UK Bus concentrated on the bus market outside the UK capital, focusing on organic growth and exploring acquisition options.
In September 2005, following competition with its Megabus coach operation, Stagecoach launched a joint venture with Scottish Citylink coaches. After a competition enquiry, in October 2006 Stagecoach was instructed to sell some of the Scottish coach services.
Stagecoach are also active in the rail industry, currently operating the South West Trains franchise (extended for another 10 years from February 2007) and having a 49% stake in Virgin Trains. The group has recently won the right to take over the Central Trains and Midland Mainline franchises creating East Midlands Trains.
In November 2006, Stagecoach was shortlisted to submit a final bid to operate the Manchester Metrolink tram network. On 2007-04-03 it was announced that the group was the preferred bidders for the tram and infrastructure maintenance and operation after Serco ends it's service during 2007. As of May 30 Stagecoach Group have signed the contract which started in July 2007. The group already operates Sheffield Supertram on a 27-year concession due to expire in 2024.
Stagecoach Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange
, though company Chairman Brian Souter and his sister Ann Gloag are major shareholders
. Despite being co-founder of Stagecoach, Ms Gloag no longer has an executive role in the company.
Souter and Gloag's involvement in bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis (the former Transbus International), and Souter's previously owned stake in ScotAirways, are not related to the Stagecoach Group in any way.
Group Structure (from 11th November 2007 except Fens)
UK operating companies
The following is a breakdown of the Stagecoach operating divisions. The centre of each operating region is shown in parentheses. Legal company names are listed alongside the trading names for that company.
- Highland Country Bus/ Rapsons Coaches - In 2007 Stagecoach purchased the largest independent bus operator in Scotland, Rapsons Group, this division is in the process of being rebranded as a division of Stagecoach UK Bus with some buses already receiving Stagecoach branding.
- Stagecoach Cambridgeshire - Stagecoach controls operations in the county of Cambridgeshire through Stagecoach Cambridgeshire, comprising Cambus Ltd. and the Viscount Bus & Coach Company Ltd. (demerged as a subsidiary of Cambus Holdings in 1989). Cambus was formed from demerger of the Eastern Counties Omnibus Company in 1984. Trading names include Stagecoach in Cambridge and Stagecoach in Peterborough. Headquarters for this group are located in Cambridge.
- Stagecoach Cooks Coaches - Stagecoach controls tendered operations in the Somerset and Devon areas through Stagecoach Cooks Coaches. This is managed as an entirely separate entity within the Stagecoach UK Bus, and buses do not feature Stagecoach corporate livery. Headquarters for this group are located in Wellington.
- Stagecoach Devon - Stagecoach controls operations in Devon through Stagecoach Devon. Comprising Devon General Ltd and Torbay Bayline Ltd. The trading name of these operations is Stagecoach in Devon. Heaquarters for this group are located in Exeter.
- Stagecoach East - Stagecoach controls operations in the East of England through Stagecoach East. This operation includes United Counties Omnibus Company Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Northants and Stagecoach in Bedford. Heaquarters for this group are located in Northampton.
- Stagecoach East Midlands - Stagecoach controls operations in the East Midlands area through Stagecoach East Midlands. Comprising Lincolnshire RoadCar Co Ltd, Grimsby-Cleethorpes Transport Ltd, Cleveland Transit Ltd and East Midland Motor Services Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Bassetlaw, Stagecoach in Mansfield, Stagecoach in South Yorkshire, Stagecoach Grimsby-Cleethorpes, Stagecoach in Hull and Stagecoach in Lincolnshire. Heaquarters for this group are located in Lincoln
- Stagecoach East Scotland - Stagecoach controls operations in the east of Scotland through Stagecoach East Scotland. Comprising Fife Scottish Omnibuses Ltd, AA Buses Ltd, Bluebird Buses Ltd, JW Coaches Ltd and Strathtay Scottish Omnibuses Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Perth, Stagecoach Bluebird, Stagecoach in Inverness, Stagecoach in Fife and Strathtay. It also operates the new Forth Fast hovercraft service from Kirkcaldy to Portobello. Heaquarters for this group are located in Cowdenbeath
- Stagecoach North East - Stagecoach controls operations in the north east of England through Stagecoach North East. Comprising Busways Travel Services Ltd and Cleveland Transit Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach on Teesside, Stagecoach in Hartlepool, Stagecoach in Newcastle, Stagecoach in South Shields and Stagecoach in Sunderland. Heaquarters for this group are located in Sunderland.
- Stagecoach North West - Stagecoach controls operations in the north west of England through Stagecoach North West. Comprising Cumberland Motor Services Ltd and Ribble Motor Services Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Cumbria, Stagecoach in Lancaster and Stagecoach in Lancashire. Heaquarters for this group are located in Carlisle.
- Stagecoach in Manchester - Stagecoach controls operations in Greater Manchester through Stagecoach Manchester. Comprising Greater Manchester Buses (South) Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Manchester and Magicbus. Heaquarters for this group are located in Manchester.
- Stagecoach Merseyside - Stagecoach controls operations in the Merseyside and Liverpool areas through Stagecoach Merseyside. Legal names of the group comprise Glenvale Transport Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Merseyside and Magic Bus. Heaquarters for this group are located in Liverpool.
- Stagecoach Sheffield - Stagecoach controls bus and tram operations in the Sheffield area of England through Stagecoach Sheffield. Comprising Yorkshire Terrier, South Yorkshire Supertram Ltd and Andrews (Sheffield) Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Sheffield and Stagecoach Supertram. Heaquarters for this group are located in Sheffield.
- Stagecoach South East - Stagecoach controls operations in the South East of England through Stagecoach South East. Comprising East Kent Road Car Company Ltd, Southdown Motor Services Ltd, Hastings & District Transport Ltd and Stagecoach (South) Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Hastings, Stagecoach in Hants and Surrey, Stagecoach in Hampshire, Stagecoach in East Kent, Stagecoach in Portsmouth and Stagecoach in the South Downs. Heaquarters for this group are located in Chichester and Canterbury.
- Stagecoach Oxfordshire - Stagecoach controls operations in Oxfordshire area through Stagecoach in Oxfordshire. Comprising Thames Transit Ltd and Midland Red (South) Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Oxfordshire, Brookesbus and Oxford Tube. Heaquarters for this group are located in Oxford.
- Stagecoach Wales or Stagecoach de Cymru / South Wales - Stagecoach controls operations in Wales through Stagecoach Wales. Comprising Red & White Services Ltd, The Valleys Bus Co Ltd, Aberdare Bus Co Ltd, Rhondda Buses Ltd, Parfitts Motor Services Ltd, Eastern Valley Bus Co Ltd and Crosskeys Coach Hire Ltd. The trading name for these operations is Stagecoach in South Wales and Stagecoach de Cymru. Heaquarters for this group are located in Cwmbran.
- Stagecoach in Warwickshire - Stagecoach controls operations in Warwickshire area through Stagecoach in Warwickshire. Comprising Midland Red (South) Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Warwickshire, Goldine. Heaquarters for this group are located in Rugby.
- Stagecoach West - Stagecoach controls operations in the West of England through Stagecoach West. Comprising Cheltenham District Traction Company Ltd, Swindon & District Bus Company Ltd and Cheltenham & Gloucester Omnibus Company Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Cheltenham, Stagecoach in Swindon, Stagecoach in Gloucester, Stagecoach in the Cotswolds, Stagecoach in the Wye and Dean. Heaquarters for this group are located in Gloucester.
- Stagecoach West Scotland - Stagecoach controls operations in the west of Scotland through Stagecoach West Scotland. Comprising Western Buses Ltd and Stagecoach Glasgow Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach Western, Stagecoach A1 Service, Stagecoach in Glasgow. Heaquarters for this group are located in Ayr.
- Stagecoach Yorkshire - Stagecoach controls operations in the Yorkshire area through Stagecoach Yorkshire. Comprising Yorkshire Traction Co Ltd, Chesterfield Transport Ltd and Barnsley & District Traction Co Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Yorkshire and Stagecoach in Chesterfield. Heaquarters for this group are located in Barnsley.
Aside from the ordinary bus operation identity, and the no-frills services, the UK bus division has the following brands that extend across operating divisions.
- Stagecoach Express - an express coach service that operates mainly between towns and cities where Stagecoach operate (e.g. Sheffield to Chesterfield) It tends not to compete with National Express like Megabus, and in some cases tickets are available through the National Express website.
- Oxford Tube - an express coach service offering high frequency 24-hour services to London, operated by Stagecoach Oxfordshire, in competition with Oxford Bus Company's Espress service.
- Citi - some urban networks have received Citi branding, such as Cambridge and Preston.
- South West Trains - Operations in the rail industry includes their long-running contract to run the South West franchise, named South West Trains (South West Trains Ltd London). They have run this since the privatisation of British Rail, and have faced tough bids to run it from First Group, National Express Group and Arriva plc but have managed to keep it for another 10 years until 2017.
- Island Line Trains - Island Line, the rail system for the Isle of Wight, has also been operated by Stagecoach since privatisation and was merged into the South West franchise in 2007. By 2016, the time the next South West franchise is due to end, the rolling stock will be over 80 years old.
- East Midlands Trains - Stagecoach won a new franchise in the East Midlands on 11 November 2007, naming it East Midlands Trains, due to a reshuffle which affected three new franchises including CrossCountry now operated by Arriva and West Midlands now operated by Govia as London Midland. The East Midlands franchise takes over all of Midland Mainline's services and some of Central Trains services, both of which were formerly owned by National Express Group. The new franchise operates services between London and Leicester, London and Sheffield and more.
- Virgin Trains - In addition, the group has a 49% stake in Virgin Trains, which operate fast intercity train services in the United Kingdom. They currently own the West Coast Main Line franchise, and formerly owned the Cross Country franchise, but due to the recent midland resuffle they lost Cross Country to Arriva. The West Coast franchise is due to end by 2012.
Light Rail Division
- Stagecoach Supertram - Stagecoach has operated under a concession the Sheffield Supertram for the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive since 1997. Its average daily ridership is 33,700, equalling more than 12 million riding on it per year, well above expectations. There are currently three lines, but future plans for extensions to the system have been made, including schemes to Rotherham, Dore, Fulwood and Maltby. However, following consultations, a reduced scheme with extensions to Rotherham and Broomhill is being considered .
- Manchester Metrolink - In July 2007, Stagecoach took over the operation of the Manchester Metrolink on a fixed term management contract, beating competition from both Serco and Govia to make it the biggest tram operator in the UK. This system consists of services all over Greater Manchester and was the first modern tram system in the United Kingdom, coming out just before the Sheffield version in 1992. Nearly 18 million people ride on the system a year, compared to only five million on National Express Group's Midland Metro which has a higher catchment area, serving Birmingham the second most populated city in England, as well as stretching out as far as Wolverhampton.
North American operating companies
In North America, Stagecoach employs 4,400 people, and operates a fleet of 2,800 coaches in the northeastern and midwestern United States and in eastern Canada. Businesses are focused on commuter services, but also include tour and charter, sightseeing, local, and school bus operations. Operations in North America are exclusively bus operations.
- Coach USA - operating primarily in the northeastern United States providing subsidized transit services (primarily in Greater New York), sightseeing, and charter services, and in the midwestern United States with primarily charter and sightseeing services. Yellow school bus services are also provided by Coach USA in the state of Wisconsin.
- Megabus - discount express bus service in two different regions of the United States, radiating from Chicago and New York City. Like Megabus in the United Kingdom, most stops are made at street locations. Details are listed in the Megabus section below.
- Coach Canada - serving primarily Ontario and Quebec, where it operates interurban and chartered bus services, contract bus services in Durham Region, Ontario, Canada, yellow school bus service in Durham Region and Peterborough County in Ontario, and sightseeing services in Montreal.
Stagecoach purchased the East London and Selkent divisions of London Buses, which operated tendered London Bus services for London Transport
. Deciding to focus on organic growth for its UK bus operations, and citing the inflexibility of the London tendering system, the London bus operations were sold to Macquarie Bank
on 31 August 2006 for £263.6m. Macquarie continued to use the Stagecoach brand for a limited period under licence, and Stagecoach provided administrative and other support functions for a transitional period of 12 months from the sale. The operations have now been rebranded into their original East London and Selkent identities, albeit updated.
Stagecoach New Zealand was a wholly-owned part of the Stagecoach Group, which provided bus services in Auckland, Wellington and Hutt Valley as well as nine ferry operations. It was the largest bus company in New Zealand when sold. Stagecoach NZ started operations when the firm acquired the Auckland and Hutt Valley suburban bus operations of the New Zealand Railways Road Services, then branded CityLine, in the 1990s. Then followed the purchase of Wellington City Transport Limited from Wellington City Council in 1992 by Stagecoach Group PLC. Following this initial acquisition Stagecoach also purchased Eastbourne Buses, The Yellow Bus Company and a controlling interest in Fullers Auckland. Before selling the business Stagecoach operated more than 900 buses and 9 ferries in New Zealand and employed more than 2000 people.
In November 2005 Infratil Limited purchased Stagecoach New Zealand from Stagecoach Group. They have not yet rebranded the Stagecoach brand on most services and have no interests in doing so at the present time, but will have to change it by 2010 when the deal to use the Stagecoach name expires.
In 1993, during Stagecoach's International buying spree, Stagecoach made its most important international acquisition at the time, buying Swebus
, the bus-company arm of the Swedish state railway
, for 1.2 billion kronor
($164 million). Mr. Souter called it "the most important deal of the year in terms of our company's long-range development" and promised more. Stagecoach in 1998 announced that it had bid for several rail franchises in Sweden. On 28 October 1999
Stagecoach revealed that it was going to sell Swebus
to Concordia Bus Sweden for £100m, in order to refocus its bus operation on the United States
. This left Arriva
as the only British
-based operator of public transport services in Sweden.
In November 1991, Stagecoach Holdings Limited (as it was named then) bought United Transport’s share holding in Kenya Bus Services Limited. During its tenure, Stagecoach rapidly expanded the fleet, introducing the Express Services and the modern double decker buses back on Kenyan roads.
In October 1998, a consortium of investors led by Mr. Karanja Kabage as Chairman acquired Kenya Bus Services Limited from Stagecoach Holdings which owned 95% of the business.
In 1994, Stagecoach created a bus-operating subsidiary in Hong Kong which operated residential bus services. It was called Speedybus. It ceased operation in April 1996.
In 1999, Stagecoach planned to become the largest bus company in China through joint ventures, equity stakes and partnerships, and confirmed the £181m acquisition of Hong Kong's Citybus. Stagecoach acquired control of Citybus Group Limited in March 1999 and completed the privatisation of Citybus on 17 July 1999. Citybus is the second largest franchise bus operator in Hong Kong and provides franchised bus services on Hong Kong Island and to and from Hong Kong's international airport. It also provided a number of non-franchise services throughout Hong Kong, including express daily coach services between residential developments and city/town centres. In addition, Citybus operatds a small number of metropolitan bus services in Mainland China.
In a surprise move, the company was acquired by Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, even though it was once touted as the gateway to its expansion in the Asia-Pacific region although Stagecoach commented saying that "combination of the uncertainties about the economic climate in Hong Kong, the growing levels of regulation to which the business is becoming subject and the inability to grow profit without very significant investment or critical mass synergies required it to take very seriously the approach and to negotiate terms which were in the best interests of Stagecoach shareholders".
Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, the parent company of the major rival operator New World First Bus, took over Citybus in June 2003. Citybus had 1,200 buses across 113 routes on Hong Kong Island and 22 services to the airport at the time of the sale. It made an operating profit before goodwill amortisation of £19m in the year to April on turnover of £133m, the lion's share of its overseas bus division. The sale neted Stagecoach £132m after third-party debt.
Stagecoach have since ditched their plans on extending to Asia, and have sold off their operations in Mainland China.
Stagecoach Portugal had its origins in the reprivatization of Portuguese bus and coach operation, which had been nationalized after the 1974 Revolution. In 1990, the nationalized Rodoviária Nacional was split into ten components. In the capital, Lisbon
was the chief operator outside the city itself, where Carris provided city bus and tram services.
The name of Rodoviária de Lisboa survived as part of the Barraqueiro bus company, but another part, serving the area to the west of Lisbon, became Stagecoach Portugal in 1995. A further portion still operates as Vimeca-, Viação Mecânica de Carnaxide. In June 2001 Stagecoach announced the sale of their Portuguese operations to ScottURB for £14 million, even though turnover and operating profit for the year-ended 30 April 2000 had been £6.8 million and £1.1 million respectively. At that time, Stagecoach Portugal operated 135 buses on 60 routes in the area west of Lisbon, carrying 27 million people per annum. In June 2001, the bus services were disposed of, generating £6 million for Stagecoach.
Stagecoach operate a number of so-called "no-frills" services across the United Kingdom and the United States. Applying the business model of the low-cost carrier air lines, these services aim to offer cheaper alternatives to the established operators in the bus, coach and rail markets, by reducing costs, and offering extremely low fares for the earliest bookings, rising nearer the journey time. This has caused many other companies to lower their price, most notably National Express.
is a low cost, "no-frills
" intercity bus service launched in the United Kingdom by Stagecoach in 2003 and, 10 April 2006 in the United States
. Its main rival in the UK is National Express
, who have had to lower their prices to compete with Megabus
. In the US, Megabus' main rival is BoltBus
, which is 50% owned by Stagecoach rival FirstGroup
. In the UK, the Megabus network covers most of the island of Great Britain
, although some routes offer only one journey per day. Originally operated using high capacity but older coach seated buses, most services are now operated with new modern single or double deck coaches. In the United States, services radiate from Chicago
and New York City
, but the networks are not connected. In both the UK and the US, to cut costs, most services use on-street bus stops rather than pay for access to coach stations (except in cases where pre-existing routes were converted to Megabus lines). Also, journeys must be pre-booked via Megabus.com or the designated phone number in each country, or at (UK and New York City only) certain bus stations (subject to availability); tickets are not available from the driver.
On 14 November 2005
, the Megabus concept was extended to certain rail services, with the introduction of Megatrain
, and London
, using a dedicated carriage on selected South West Trains
services. It has since been extended to some Virgin Trains
services (since withdrawn) and to selected East Midlands Trains
was the first no-frills brand of Stagecoach. It was first used in red lettering on ex London Routemasters, otherwise painted in Stagecoach stripes, in competition in Glasgow. Later, an allover blue with yellow lettering was adopted, on older service buses with simple fares and no travel passes, usually operated on routes with strong competition from other operators, most notably on the Manchester Piccadilly
to East Didsbury
(Oxford Road corridor) route in Greater Manchester
, but also in Newcastle upon Tyne and East Scotland (as Magic Mini). It now only remains in use in Manchester.
Scottish Citylink Coaches
On 13 September 2005 Stagecoach and ComfortDelGro announced a joint venture in the provision of express coach services in Scotland, ending intense competition between ComfortDelGro's subsidiary Scottish Citylink and Stagecoach subsidiaries Megabus and Motorvator. Under the terms of the joint venture, the Stagecoach Group will acquire a 35% stake in Scottish Citylink Coaches Ltd, with Citylink assuming certain rights to the Megabus and Motorvator brands in Scotland.
Megabus operations in the rest of the UK are excluded from this agreement. Despite being a minority shareholder, Stageocoach appears to have assumed all but full control. Stagecoach staff have replaced much of the former Citylink management, while Stagecoach subsidiaries have began operating many of the routes formerly operated by subcontractors, albeit with vehicles in full Scottish Citylink livery. Citylink frequencies and routes have also been sacrificed in favour of Megabus where the two brands overlap.
The Competition Commission ruled on 23 October 2006 that the joint venture substantially reduced competition and that evidence suggested some routes were already experiencing higher fares as a result. Though no firm conclusion was drawn, regulators are to consult the two companies about what they need to do to comply with competition regulations and they have indicated that this will likely lead to the forced divestment of some services to an independent operator. The ruling was criticised by Stagecoach as leaving vital services in limbo and jeopardising Scotland's intercity coach network, making it unable to compete effectively with rail and private car journeys.
To satisfy the Commission, some Citylink routes were ultimately sold to Parks Motor Group in early 2008.
Controversy was never far from Stagecoach as it expanded its bus operations after deregulation. The company often found itself on the wrong side of the Competition Commission
and faced sharp media criticism over its predatory approach to smaller operators. Bitter bus wars
broke out in towns and cities throughout Britain as Stagecoach took on the local competition, often forcing the competitor to abandon traditional markets and sometimes causing the collapse of smaller operators. Practices included aggressive pricing and timing, running services outside of its registered routes, or registering routes to compete with other operators rather than serve the public interest. In its hometown of Perth, Stagecoach successfully forced the dominant operator Strathtay Scottish
to abandon local services in the town. Similarly, Stagecoach subsidiary Bluebird Buses
replaced Highland Scottish
buses on most city services in and around Inverness
, and Ribble Motor Services
replaced the local operator in Lancaster. In 1994 Stagecoach attracted particular criticism for its involvement in the events of the Darlington Bus War
, in which Stagecoach entered the Darlington bus market, leading to the eventual collapse of Darlington Transport. This would lead to an inquiry and subsequent reform in the regulatory
framework for bus operation in the UK. Controversy also reappeared in 2005 in the Highlands
when the Magicbus
formulae was applied by Stagecoach East Scotland
to minibuses as Magic Mini, to compete with Scotbus, with alleged aggressive behaviour by Stagecoach drivers, resulting in an arson fire at a Stagecoach East Scotland
garage. The company is currently engaged in a similar bus war with Preston bus
The Stagecoach Group has also indirectly attracted criticism through controversial statements and actions made by its chairman and co-founder, Brian Souter
, regarding certain public statements and his funding of a campaign to block the repeal the Section 28
law. In 2000, OutRage!
spokesman Peter Tatchell, called for a boycott
of the bus and rail group.
In 2007 two gay teens in Aberdeenshire were threatened with being removed from the bus because one had his arm round the shoulders of the second; 'hug-in' protests around Scotland then followed from members of the Scottish Socialist Party
(ironically a major beneficiary of donations from Brian Souter) and gay rights activists, calling on Stagecoach to apologise. For its part, Stagecoach has defended the actions of its driver.