Scottish Citylink Coaches Ltd is a long distance express coach operator in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland (where it operates simply as "Citylink".). The company was formed as a subsidiary of Scottish Transport Group in June 1985. Since 2006 it has been operated as a 65:35 joint venture between ComfortDelGro and Stagecoach Group.
Scottish Citlyink operate an extensive network of long distance express services within Scotland, operating some 19 routes linking the main cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling and Inverness, as well as linking the rural Highland communities to the main urban areas of Scotland. Services also operate to Northern Ireland via the ferry links between Stranraer and Belfast, and there are seasonal workings to Blackpool. Additionally, a shuttle service between Glasgow city centre and Glasgow International Airport is provided. In all, over 200 destinations are served by Scottish Citylink within Scotland on a network utilising approximately 90 coaches provided by operators local to the 'destination' area, carrying over 3 million passengers annually.
Despite the extent of Citylink's operations in Scotland, there are notable geographical regions that have little to no connections with the network, some of which include large urban areas. These tend to be areas served by subsidiaries of the Stagecoach Group, which operate their own comprehensive Stagecoach Express network, such as Ayrshire (Kilmarnock, Ayr and Irvine), Fife (Kirkaldy, Dunfermline and St Andrews), Dumfries & Galloway, Aberdeenshire and Moray. An exception is the Scottish Borders, which is covered by the First Group, though has no regular express service.
Scottish Citylink Coaches Ltd was formed in the reorganisation of the Scottish Bus Group in 1985 to co-ordinate and manage the long distance express services operated by the other SBG subsidiaries, particularly the Western Scottish and Eastern Scottish services from Glasgow and Edinburgh to London and the south. By combining the SBG express network, Citylink became the largest operator of long distance express services within Scotland, and from Scotland to England and Wales. With the main 'hubs' in Glasgow and Edinburgh, many services to the Highlands and Islands were in some cases vital to rural areas as the only public transport link available (which still holds true today).
One vehicle was owned to satisfy licensing conditions but this was operated as part of the Western Scottish fleet. Citylink itself did not operate any vehicles but a uniform two-tone blue and yellow livery was introduced for coaches operating Citylink services, with the subsidiary's corporate fleetname displayed on the front and rear of the vehicle, e.g. 'Western Scottish'. Previously, only cross-border services had adopted some form of corporate look in the late 1970s, with vehicles wearing a simple but striking blue and white livery with bold "Scottish" fleetnames in the SBG corporate logo style.
Subsidiary companies operated Citylink vehicles on express services originating from their operating area, and where long distance services spanned one or two operating areas, the routes were shared between the companies. The level of involvement of the subsidiary firms in providing Citylink work varied with size and geography, however. Central Scottish, Strathtay Scottish, Kelvin Scottish and Clydeside Scottish were the smaller contributors as no major city or destination lay within their main operating regions. Indeed, Clydeside marketed its own express services within its area as 'Clydeside Quicksliver' with its own distinct brand.
As the Scottish Bus Group prepared for privatisation, Citylink franchises were no longer exclusive to the SBG subsidiaries. Private companies such as Rapson's Coaches, based in Inverness, Henry Crawford Coaches in Neilston, West Coast Motors (of Campbeltown), Skye-Ways and Park's Of Hamilton were awarded Citylink contracts and provided vehicles of their own for this work. Also seen using a Citylink livery but with the distinctive 'Ulsterman' lettering, Ulsterbus provided coaches for services between Londonderry / Belfast to Brimaingham and London via towns in Dumfries and Galloway. This route was also operated by Dodds of Troon and Western Scottish.
Citylink itself was privatised in August 1990, when its management and employees (through a company called Clansman, later Saltire Holdings) purchased the firm for £265k. As the Scottish Bus Group broke up, the number of private operators working Citylink contracts increased. Park's, West Coast Motors (of Campbeltown) and Rapson's were now major contributors, while the former SBG companies now owned by Stagecoach (Fife Scottish, Western Scottish, Bluebird Buses) began operating their own Stagecoach Express network to, and throughout, their respective operating areas.
In 1993 National Express Group (NEG) purchased the firm for £5m. At that time, cross border services to England were replaced by National Express services, leaving Citylink with Scottish domestic services, and co-ordinated timetabling and ticketing was introduced between the two operators. During this period, Citylink took a stake in West Coast Motors, purchased Skye-Ways Coaches and also Highland Country Buses, which was an off-shoot of Highland Scottish.
With the break-up and privatisation of British Rail, NEG successfully won the ScotRail franchise in 1997. As a result, the Competition Commission ordered the sale of Scottish Citylink as it believed National Express would have the monopoly of long distance bus and rail services in Scotland. Metroline, the London based subsidiary of Singapore firm ComfortDelGro Corporation, bought Citylink for £10.2 m in 1998.
In 2002, the company began trading in the Republic of Ireland, acquiring Cummer Commercials Ltd, which operated on the Dublin to Galway route (and confusingly also traded as CityLink Express). The route has since been rebranded to the yellow-blue Citylink livery (although without the "Scottish" prefix) and has expanded to provide services from Galway to Shannon.
The company is today headquartered at Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow, and its services are still operated by franchise partners; Citylink itself does not operate any vehicles (one vehicle is owned and operated by West Coast Motors (of Campbeltown) to satisfy licensing conditions). The two-tone blue and yellow colour scheme is still used, though its application and style have changed over the years to remain fresh and modern.
More recently, Scottish Citylink faced heavy competition from Megabus and Motorvator, both subsidiaries of the Stagecoach Group. In particular, the Glasgow to Edinburgh flagship route competed fiercely with the Motorvator operation since its acquisition by Stagecoach in July 2004. However, on 13 September 2005, Stagecoach and ComfortDelGro agreed to a joint venture on the provision of express coach services in Scotland, ending the competition between the two operators. Under the terms of the agreement, Stagecoach would take a 35% stake in Scottish Citylink Coaches Ltd and in return grant certain rights to the Megabus and Motorvator brands in Scotland.
Despite being a minority shareholder, Stagecoach appears to have assumed operational control. Stagecoach staff have replaced much of the former Citylink management, while Stagecoach's Scottish subsidiaries have began operating many of the routes formerly operated by subcontractors displaced from Citylink work, such as Travel Dundee (a subsidiary of the National Express Group, but have since started operating journeys on the Perth - Edinburgh route. Citylink service numbers, timetables and routes have also been sacrificed in favour of Megabus where the two brands overlap, in some cases to the detriment of Perth town centre, as most services now instead serve the out-of-town Broxden Park and Ride facility, which has little to no onward connection to the town centre.
Following an investigation which started in March 2006, the Competition Commission ruled that the joint venture substantially reduces competition and that evidence suggests it has already led to higher fares on some routes. Though regulators are to consult further with the two operators to find a way to comply with competition regulations, it is likely to lead at least to the forced divestment of some services to an independent operator.
Stagecoach immediately criticised the ruling, stating that a period of further consultation would cause uncertainty among passengers and leave vital services in limbo, while jeopardising Scotland's intercity coach network and its ability to compete with both train and car . Criticism of the Competition Commission's draft findings has grown in Scotland and the joint venture has received support from across the political spectrum in the Scottish Parliament .
Accessible Coach Routes Edit
Early in 2007 Stagecoach and Citylink introduced 15m coaches which can seat 65 passengers or 63 with a wheelchair.
The coaches used are Plaxton Panthers on a Volvo B12B Chassis and are 15 metres in length. They use a tri-axle design and offer the driver the advantage of rear-wheel steering to aid manouvrebility. Stagecoach now owns the largest fleet of 15m coaches in the UK.
- Scottish Citylink website
- (Irish) Citylink website
- Scotsman newspaper report on "coach war" with Citylink
- Competition Commission report on NatEx/ScotRail/Citylink merger situation