First withdraws East Lothian services

First withdraws East Lothian services Paul McGowan, managing director, First Scotland East.

First Scotland East has confirmed that it is proposing to cease bus operations in East Lothian from 14 August 2016 and close its depots in North Berwick and Musselburgh.

First says its operations in these areas has not been viable for a number of years, and it has not attracted sufficient customers in what it describes as an increasingly competitive market.

The company had been compelled to maintain the substantial part of its network through undertakings agreed 14 years ago following an investigation by the then Monopolies and Mergers Commission. 

First Scotland East was recently released from these undertakings, which limited the fares that FirstGroup were able to charge and required the company to maintain a minimum level of service in some areas, by the Competition and Markets Authority in March, and says it has now decided to focus its resources in areas where customer demand and satisfaction is growing.

“I’m disappointed that we’re proposing to withdraw from Musselburgh and North Berwick,” says Paul McGowan, managing director, First Scotland East. “We will 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 has started a 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’.

“I am sorry that we are having to discuss the proposal to discontinue services and consider the possibility of redundancies,” adds McGowan. “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.

“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.” 

The East Lothian operations affected account for around a fifth of the First Scotland East operation.