"Citylinking... smart thinking!"|
"green thinking, citylinking"
|Service type||Long distance coach services|
West Coast Motors
Scottish Citylink is a long distance express coach operator in Scotland and Ireland (where it operates as Irish Citylink) and England (where it operates as Stansted Citylink). The company was formed as a subsidiary of Scottish Transport Group in March 1985. Since September 2005 it has been operated as a 65/35 joint venture between ComfortDelGro and Stagecoach.
Scottish Citylink operates an extensive network of long distance express services within Scotland, operating 19 routes linking the cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling and Inverness, as well as linking some rural Highland communities to the main urban areas of Scotland. Services also operate to Northern Ireland via the ferry link between Stranraer and Belfast, and there are seasonal workings to Blackpool. In all, over 200 destinations are served by Scottish Citylink within Scotland, using about 90 coaches provided by operators local to the 'destination' area, carrying over three million passengers annually.
Despite the extent of Citylink's operations in Scotland, there are notable geographical regions, including large urban areas, that have little to no connections with the network. These tend to be areas served by subsidiaries of Stagecoach, which operate their own comprehensive Stagecoach Express network, to destinations such as Ayrshire (Kilmarnock, Ayr and Irvine), Fife (Kirkcaldy, Dunfermline and St Andrews), Dumfries & Galloway, Aberdeenshire and Moray. An exception is the Scottish Borders, which is covered by FirstGroup, though they have no regular express service.
Scottish Citylink Coaches was formed in 1985 during the reorganisation of the Scottish Bus Group 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. 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. 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 of Inverness, Henry Crawford Coaches of 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 Birmingham 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 sold in a management buyout to its management and employees. As the Scottish Bus Group broke up, the number of private operators working Citylink contracts increased. Park's, West Coast Motors 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.
In 1993 Scottish Citylink was sold to National Express. 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 offshoot of Highland Scottish.
With the privatisation of British Rail, in 1997 National Express won the ScotRail franchise. The Mergers & Monopolies Commission ruled this would give National Express a monopoly on long distance services in Scotland and ordered the sale of Scottish Citylink.
In 2002, the company began trading in the Republic of Ireland, acquiring Cummer Commercials, which operated on the Dublin to Galway route (and 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's current head office is at Buchanan bus station in Glasgow, where many of its services start and terminate. Citylink itself does not operate or own buses in its own right, although one owned and operated by Stagecoach West Scotland carries CityLink accreditation 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.
From 2004, the operating companies faced heavy competition from Megabus and Motorvator, both subsidiaries of Stagecoach. In September 2005 ComfortDelGro and Stagecoach agreed to a joint venture to provide express coach services in Scotland, ending the competition between the two operators. Under the terms of the agreement, Stagecoach gained a 35% shareholding in Scottish Citylink and in return granted certain rights to the Megabus and Motorvator brands in Scotland.
Despite being a minority shareholder, Stagecoach appeared to have assumed operational control. Stagecoach staff replaced much of the former Citylink management, while Stagecoach's Scottish subsidiaries began operating many of the routes formerly operated by subcontractors displaced from Citylink work. Citylink service numbers, timetables and routes were also sacrificed in favour of Megabus where the two brands overlapped.
In March 2006 the Competition Commission launched an investigation and ruled that the joint venture substantially reduced competition and that evidence suggested it led to higher fares on some routes. 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 grew in Scotland and the joint venture received support from across the political spectrum in the Scottish Parliament In early 2008, certain routes, which were at the time already contacted out to Park's, were divested to comply with the ruling.
Today many of the services are operated by Stagecoach subsidiaries Stagecoach East, Stagecoach Highlands and Stagecoach West. Some services are operated by Bruce's Coaches, D&E Coaches, Shiel Buses and West Coast Motors.
In 2010, Citylink launched the "Gold" brand for services between Glasgow and Aberdeen or Inverness. The Citylink Gold brand is similar to the Stagecoach Gold brand used by Stagecoach bus subsidiaries, and offers a more luxurious service with leather seats, free wi-fi and extra services aboard. With Citylink Gold, passengers are offered free tea and coffee on the bus. Three services per day in each direction on both routes from Glasgow to Aberdeen and Glasgow to Inverness are designated as Citylink Gold. Fares have remained the same with Super Singles available on the routes as they were whilst under standard Citylink branding. The Citylink Gold services are as follows:
- G9 Glasgow - Aberdeen
- G10 Glasgow - Aviemore - Inverness
- G92 Edinburgh - Aberdeen
- Companies House extract company no SC91931 Scottish Citylink Coaches Limited
- Timetables Scottish Citylink
- Competition Commission report 1996 Page 31 Competition Commission
- National Express told to sell Citylink local.gov.uk 29 May 1998
- History of Metroline Metroline
- "Thirty years on there is one token Citylink coach" Buses issue 726 September 2015 page 27
- Competition Commission - Scottish Citylink report Competition Commission 2006
- Stagecoach Group reaction to Competition Commission announcement Stagecoach Group 23 October 2006
- Competition Commission - Citylink responses draft Competition Commission 2006
- Citylink confirms partial divestment of intercity coach services Scottish Citylink 4 February 2008
- Scottish Citylink Completes Sale of Services Competition Commission 5 February 2008
- Contract Services Bruce's Coaches
- Volvo goes the extra mile for Shile Buses Transport News Brief 9 October 2014
- Citylink and Westcoast Motors sign new deal Citylink 14 July 2008
- "In Brief" Buses issue 726 September 2015 page 7
- New direct bus service service from Stansted Airport to central London Cambridge News 11 December 2015
- Home Stansted Citylink
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