Local bus operator First Scotland East today [May 24] confirmed it is proposing to cease bus operations in East Lothian from 14 August 2016 and close its depots in North Berwick and Musselburgh.
First Scotland East’s operations in these areas have not been viable for a number of years, despite working hard to turn the business around and attract sufficient customers in what has become an increasingly competitive market.
However, the company had also been compelled to maintain the substantial part of its network through undertakings agreed some 14 years ago following an investigation by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.
First Scotland East was recently released from these undertakings by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and, in order to put the business on a sound footing for the future, it has now decided, following a review, to propose this action and allow the company to focus resources in areas where customer demand and satisfaction is growing.
Paul McGowan, Managing Director of First Scotland East, said: “I’m disappointed that we’re proposing to withdraw from Musselburgh and North Berwick. We will today engage with the local authority on the future of bus services. However, given there are other bus operators that operate in and around the area, I’m confident if we decide to go ahead with these proposals the majority of our customers won’t be left without a service.”
The company also confirmed it has started the collective consultation process with Trade Unions on the proposed closure of Musselburgh and North Berwick bus depots with redundancies expected among the workforce based across both locations and in supporting roles, if the proposal is implemented. A total of 88 positions are now classed as “at risk”.
Paul McGowan said: “I am sorry that we are having to discuss the proposal to discontinue services and consider the possibility of redundancies”.
“I must stress our proposals do not, in any way, reflect the commitment and quality of our employees in the area. I cannot speak highly enough of their professionalism and dedication. We will be doing everything we can to assist those affected.”
He added: “Unfortunately, we’ve incurred losses in East Lothian for years. Should the proposal be implemented this will allow us to concentrate our investment in West Lothian, the Borders and the Central Belt, improving our services for customers and growing our operations in those areas, helping protect jobs in the long term.”
Prior to today’s announcement, First Scotland East began its official consultation process with affected colleagues. This will include offering opportunities in other areas. The company also provided notice to the Traffic Commissioner and the Local Authority of its intention to cease running affected commercial services after the required statutory period of 70 days and affected tendered services after 90 days.
The East Lothian operations affected account for around a fifth of the First Scotland East operation.