Stagecoach Group

Stagecoach Group plc
Public company
Traded as LSE: SGC
Grey Market: SAGKF
Founded 1980
Headquarters Perth, Scotland, UK
Area served
United Kingdom, United States, Canada
Key people
Sir Brian Souter, Chairman
Martin Griffiths, Chief Executive
Products Local and express bus service, intercity bus service, franchise rail and tram service, sightseeing services
Revenue Increase £3,204.4 million (April 2015)[1]
Increase £227.1 million (April 2015)[2]
Increase £139.5 million (April 2015)[1]
Number of employees
36,809 (April 2015)[1]

Stagecoach Group plc (LSE: SGC) is an international transport group operating buses, trains, trams and express coaches. The group was founded in 1980 by current chairman Brian Souter,[3] his sister Ann Gloag, and her former husband Robin. 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 a 49% stake in Virgin Rail Group, and light rail services in Sheffield, the company is the second largest transport group in the United Kingdom, close behind FirstGroup. Stagecoach operates around 8,100 vehicles and covers over 90 major towns and cities in the United Kingdom, 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.

Operations in Australia, Hong Kong, Kenya, Malawi, New Zealand, Portugal and Sweden have been sold. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange, where it is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.


Stagecoach Southdown Alexander Dash bodied Dennis Dart in the previous livery

Stagecoach was born out of deregulation of 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 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 ex NBC and SBG bus companies that had been purchased by management and employees when privatised. Stagecoach left the long distance express coach market in 1988 when it sold its operations to National Express.

During the privatisation of British Rail Porterbrook was formed as one of three rolling stock companies owning around a third of passenger railway locomotives, multiple units and coaching stock running on Network Rail's system which is leased to various train operators. It was sold to a management buyout before being purchased by Stagecoach in August 1996.[4][5] In April 2000 Stagecoach sold Porterbrook to Abbey National for £773 million.[6]

In 1997 Stagecoach won the franchise to operate the Sheffield Supertram system, from the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, who own the system. Stagecoach bought the remaining 27 years of a 30-year franchise, which expires in 2024, and run the operation under the Stagecoach Supertram brand, having responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the tram system. When Stagecoach took over the system, it was struggling, both financially and in terms of attracting passengers, but it is now an extremely popular and successful operation.[7]

Stagecoach took another turn in 1998, when it purchased Scotland's Prestwick Airport for £41 million. By the summer of 1999, the company was rumoured to have been offered some £80 million for Prestwick. They sold the airport in January 2001 to concentrate on surface transport.[8]

On 21 November 2005 Stagecoach announced the sale of its New Zealand operations to Infratil.[9]

On 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 remaining privately owned independent bus operator in the UK.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

Stagecoach are also active in the rail industry, currently operating the South West Trains franchise and having a 49% stake in Virgin Rail Group. In 2007 the group won the right to take over the part of the old Central Trains franchise and the Midland Mainline franchise, creating the new East Midlands Trains operation.[13]

In July 2007, Stagecoach commenced operating the Manchester Metrolink tram network.[14]

In January 2009, Stagecoach bought Preston Bus, a former rival in the Lancashire area.[15] In November 2009 the Competition Commission ordered Stagecoach to sell Preston Bus after it had adversely affected competition in the area.[16]

In October 2010, Stagecoach expanded further by re-acquiring East London and Selkent, Stagecoach's former London bus operations.[17]

In August 2011, Stagecoach sold its Manchester Metrolink concession to RATP Group half way through its ten-year contract to operate the network.[18]

In December 2013, Stagecoach bought King's Lynn based Norfolk Green.[19]

In March 2015, Virgin Trains East Coast, in which Stagecoach holds a 90% shareholding, commenced operating the InterCity East Coast franchise.[20][21]


Key people

Stagecoach Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange, though company Chairman Brian Souter and his sister Ann Gloag are the largest shareholders with a combined 25.9% shareholding at April 2013.[22] Ms Gloag no longer has an executive role in the company.

Souter and Gloag's 46.8% shareholding in bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis, or Souter's previously owned stake in ScotAirways are not related to the Stagecoach Group.


Group Structure (at September 2011)[23]

Stagecoach Group
UK Bus
North America
National Transport
East Scotland
West Scotland
North East
South Lancashire &
Virgin Rail
East Midlands
East Midlands
Cumbria & North Lancashire
South West
Cambridge &
Sheffield Supertram
East Kent
South West
South Yorkshire

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.

Bus division

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Stagecoach UK Bus.


Oxford Tube Van Hool T9 Astromega on the M40 in August 2009

Apart from the ordinary bus operations and no-frills services, the UK bus division has the following brands that extend across operating divisions.

Rail Division

Light Rail Division

Sheffield Supertram in May 2011
Sheffield Supertram - Stagecoach has operated the Sheffield Supertram under a concession from the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive since 1997.[28] Its average daily ridership is 33,700, equalling more than 12 million per year, well above expectations. There are currently three lines, and future plans include schemes to Rotherham, Dore, Fulwood and Maltby. However, following consultations, a reduced scheme with extensions to Rotherham and Broomhill is being considered.

North American operating companies

Coach division

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, and include tour and charter, sightseeing, local, and school bus operations. Operations in North America are exclusively bus operations.

Former operations

Stagecoach Rail

In 1992, shortly before the privatisation of British Rail, Stagecoach Rail briefly operated a modest InterCity operation between Aberdeen and London. Two British Railways Mark 2 passenger carriages were re-branded in Stagecoach colours and attached to a scheduled British Rail InterCity sleeper service.[29]

Virgin CrossCountry

Virgin Rail Group operated the CrossCountry franchise as Virgin CrossCountry from January 1997 until November 2007 when it passed to Arriva.

In July 2007 Stagecoach took over the operation of Manchester Metrolink on a 10-year fixed-term management contract, beating competition from Serco, Transdev and Keolis, to make it the biggest tram operator in the UK.[30][31] This system was the first modern tram system in the United Kingdom, opening just before the Sheffield system in 1992. Nearly 18 million people ride on the system a year. Stagecoach sold the Metrolink business to RATP Group in August 2011.[32]


In 1999 Stagecoach purchased the school bus operations of Sunbus in the Cairns, Ipswich and Sunshine Coast regions of Queensland. These were sold in 2002.[33][34]

Hong Kong

Citybus MAN NL262 in Hong Kong in Stagecoach livery

In 1994 Stagecoach created a bus-operating subsidiary in Hong Kong which operated residential bus services. 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 in March 1999 and completed the privatisation of Citybus on 17 July 1999.[35] 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 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 operates a small number of metropolitan bus services in Mainland China.

In June 2003 the operation was sold to Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, the parent company of the major rival operator New World First Bus.[36][37] 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 the overseas bus division. The sale netted Stagecoach £132m after third-party debt. Stagecoach have since cancelled plans to extend into Asia, and have sold off their operations in mainland China.


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 Karanja Kabage as Chairman acquired Kenya Bus Services Limited from Stagecoach Holdings which owned 95% of the business.

New Zealand

Stagecoach New Zealand Hawke bodied Volvo B58 trolleybus in Wellington

Stagecoach New Zealand was a wholly owned part of the Stagecoach Group, which provided bus services in Auckland, Wellington and the Hutt Valley and nine ferry routes in Auckland. It was the largest bus company in New Zealand when sold. Stagecoach NZ started operations when the firm acquired Wellington City Transport, including the Hutt Valley suburban bus operations of the New Zealand Railways Road Services, branded CityLine, in the 1990s. Following this initial acquisition Stagecoach also purchased Eastbourne Buses, The Yellow Bus Company in Auckland and a controlling interest in Fullers Auckland. Before selling the business Stagecoach operated more than 900 buses and nine ferries in New Zealand and employed more than 2,000 people.

In November 2005, the business was sold to Infratil and rebranded as NZ Bus.[38]


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 (generating £6 million surplus for Stagecoach), 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,[39] as well as the heritage tram line in Sintra.

Nordic countries

In October 1996, during Stagecoach's International buying spree, it made its most important international acquisition at the time, buying Swebus AB, the bus-company arm of the Swedish State Railways (SJ), for 1.2 billion kronor ($164 million), which also included operations in Denmark, Finland and Norway. Brian Souter called it "the most important deal of the year in terms of our company's long-range development" and promised more. The operations in Norway included only city and regional traffic in three minor cities around lake Mjøsa, but several unsuccessful bids on operators in the Oslo area led to Stagecoach selling out to Norgesbuss in April 1997. The Danish operations never proved profitable, and were sold to Combus in autumn of 1997. The operations in Finland were more successful, and were in April 1998 renamed Stagecoach Finland. In spring of 1997, Swebus Express was started as an intercity coach service between several cities in southern parts of Sweden, sporting the Stagecoach livery of the time. Stagecoach in 1998 announced that it had bid for several rail franchises in Sweden. On 27 October 1999, Stagecoach revealed that it was going to sell Swebus to Concordia Bus for £100m, in order to refocus its bus operation on the United States and Asia.

No-frills brands

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, most notably National Express, to lower their fares.

Magic Bus

Magic Bus was the first no-frills brand of Stagecoach. It was first used in red lettering on ex London AEC 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 Wilmslow Road bus corridor route in Manchester, but also in Newcastle upon Tyne and East Scotland (as Magic Mini). In 2008 Stagecoach Merseyside introduced a Magic Bus service competing with themselves and Arriva North West on the busy route 14 corridor, Magic Bus 14C runs every 7/8 minutes between City Centre and Broadway.

By 2012, only the Manchester Magic Bus remains, these being upgraded from Volvo Olympians and Dennis Dragons to Alexander ALX400 and East Lancs bodied Dennis Trident 2s.


Megabus Van Hool Astromega in September 2012

Megabus is a low cost, "no-frills" intercity bus service launched in the United Kingdom by Stagecoach in 2003, on 10 April 2006 in the United States, and in 2009 within Canada. Its main rival in the UK is National Express, who have had to lower their prices to compete with Megabus. In the US, Megabus/Eastern Shuttle's 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). A notable exception to this is the use of London Victoria Coach Station.

In the UK and in the US for routes out of Chicago, all journeys must be pre-booked via or the designated phone number, or at certain bus stations; tickets are not available from the driver. In the US for routes out of New York City, Megabus journeys must be pre-booked via or the designated phone number (or at the New York City station).


Main article: Megatrain

On 14 November 2005, the Megabus concept was extended to certain rail services, with the introduction of Megatrain between London and Southampton, and London and Portsmouth, using a dedicated carriage on selected South West Trains services. It was later extended to some Virgin Trains services (since withdrawn) and to selected East Midlands Trains services.

In 2009, the Megabusplus concept was introduced, under which certain trips are begun on a train and are then completed on a bus. Unlike the original Megatrain concept, this service is available seven days a week.

Main article: Scottish Citylink
Plaxton Panther bodied Volvo B12B in September 2010

In 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 acquires a 35% stake in Scottish Citylink Coaches Ltd, with Citylink assuming certain rights to the Megabus and Motorvator brands in Scotland.[40] Megabus operations in the rest of the UK were excluded from this agreement. Despite being a minority shareholder, Stagecoach appeared to have assumed all but full control. Stagecoach staff replaced much of the former Citylink management, while Stagecoach subsidiaries 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 in October 2006 that the joint venture substantially reduced competition and that evidence suggested some routes were already experiencing higher fares as a result.[41] 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.[42]

To satisfy the Commission, some Citylink routes were sold to Parks Motor Group in early 2008.


Competitive strategy

Following the deregulation of bus services in the United Kingdom, Stagecoach bought a number of the newly emerged small bus companies and ran free or low fare buses to put local rivals out of business.[43] In Darlington, Stagecoach subsidiary Busways offered bounties to recruit drivers away from the existing bus service and offered free buses to deter the rival preferred bidder from taking over the existing bus service. This was "predatory, deplorable and against the public interest" according to findings from the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.[44][45]

In 2000 Stagecoach Manchester was found to have been employing bus inspectors to usher passengers away from competitor's services.[46] In 2005 alleged aggressive behaviour by Stagecoach drivers, seeking to compete with Scotbus, resulted in an arson fire at a Stagecoach East Scotland garage.[47]

In 2006/07 Stagecoach Manchester and UK North engaged in a bus war on route 192 and on the Wilmslow Road bus corridor that caused traffic chaos in Manchester.[48][49] In November 2009 the Competition Commission ordered Stagecoach to sell Preston Bus after it had adversely affected competition in the area. Preston Bus was sold in January 2011.[50][51][52]

Controversial chairman

Section 28 protestor in Manchester in July 2000

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 of the Section 28 law. In 2000, OutRage! spokesman Peter Tatchell, called for a boycott of the bus and rail group.[53]

Tardy buses

In November 2015 Stagecoach created controversy when it was revealed that a bus service was running late or not turning up 40% of the time. Stagecoach refused to apologise for the tardy service.[54]

Fleet Numbers

The Stagecoach Group number their buses as follows:-

The allocated number is for the life of the bus whilst in the Stagecoach Group until it is sold. If it were to be re-acquired through take-overs of other bus companies then the next available free number would be given to that vehicle dependent on the vehicle type.

As a result of the purchase of Stagecoach London whose fleet numbers duplicate some current buses in various group subsidiaries, fleet numbers can be reused, but only after that fleet number has been unused for three years.

Preserved vehicles take up numbers at the end of each series but do not carry the allocated numbers instead they carry the original fleet number given when new by the original company that owned it when new an example of this being the AEC Routemasters in London.

Guided Busway

Stagecoach operate buses along the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway. The Guide wheels on the side of the buses, combined with a specially built track mean that hands free driving is possible. The main advantages of a guided busway, versus a normal road are higher speeds (meaning increased capacity) and increased safety as traffic of differing directions is physically separated.[55]


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  3. Stagecoach aims to buy trains Porterbrook purchase would give bus and rail giant one-third of passenger rolling stock Herald Scotland 1 July 1996
  4. Porterbrook Leasing sale agreed Railway Gazette 27 October 2008
  5. City, Our (20 March 2000). "Stagecoach poised to sell Porterbrook". London: Independent. Retrieved 1 January 2009.
  6. Sheffield supertram falls victim to competition from cheap buses The Independent 10 June 1996
  7. Harrison, Michael (23 January 2001). "Stagecoach sells off Prestwick for £33m". London: Independent. Retrieved 1 January 2009.
  8. "Stagecoach sells New Zealand unit". BBC News. 21 November 2005. Retrieved 22 November 2005.
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  12. "Stagecoach wins railway franchise". BBC News. 22 June 2007. Retrieved 22 June 2007.
  13. "Stagecoach named preferred bidder to run Greater Manchester's Metrolink" (Press release). Greater Manchester PTE. 3 April 2007. Retrieved 12 April 2007.
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  16. Fletcher, Nick (15 October 2010). "Stagecoach buys back London bus business at a discount". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
  17. Carter, Helen; Milmo, Dan (2 August 2011). "Manchester's trams to be run by Paris Metro firm". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
  18. "Bus Group purchases Herald Green". Herald Scotland. 18 December 2013. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  19. 1 2 More seats, more services and new trains for East Coast passengers Department for Transport 27 November 2014
  20. 1 2 Stagecoach and Virgin win East Cost mainline rail franchise BBC News 27 November 2014
  21. Annual Report 30 April 2013 Stagecoach plc
  22. "Overview". Stagecoach Group. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  23. Stagecoach re-enters London bus market BBC News 15 October 2010
  24. Davidson, Ros (22 September 2006). "Stagecoach wins South West Trains contract". London: Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 5 January 2008.
  25. "TUPE transfer to Stagecoach South Western Trains Limited". TSSA. 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2008.
  26. "More services and extra capacity for the Midlands". Department for Transport. 2007. Archived from the original on 11 December 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2008.
  27. "Sheffield Supertram: History". Retrieved 22 August 2007.
  28. "Stagecoach Group Company History". Stagecoach Group. 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2008.
  29. "Stagecoach in Manchester tram coup". This is Money. Retrieved 5 January 2008.
  30. "RATP buys Manchester Metrolink operator". Railway Gazette International. 2 August 2011.
  31. Buslink Queensland History Australian Bus Fleet Lists
  32. Annual Report 30 April 2002 Stagecoach plc
  33. Stagecoach enters Hong Kong BBC News 18 January 1999
  34. Stagecoach sells HK buses BBC News 9 June 2003
  35. Stagecoach takes the £176m road away from Hong Kong The Telegraph 10 June 2003
  36. Disposal of New Zealand Operations Stagecoach 21 November 2005
  37. "Stagecoach sells Portuguese bus operation for £14 million". Stagecoach Group. 2001. Retrieved 18 June 2001.
  38. "Stagecoach/Scottish Citylink inquiry". Competition Commission. 2006. Retrieved 23 October 2006.
  39. "UK | Brian Souter: Stagecoach's straightman". BBC News. 21 January 2000. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  40. Glenda Cooper (24 December 1995). "Stagecoach set record of shame ful record of shame - Home News - UK". London: The Independent. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  41. "The supply of bus services in the north-east of England". Competition Commission. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  42. Stagecoach found guilty of bus war dirty tricks The Independent 3 December 2000
  43. "Man jailed over bus depot fires". BBC News. 14 February 2006. Retrieved 14 February 2006.
  44. Council concerns over 'bus war' BBC News 3 April 2006
  45. Bus wars: Get it sorted Manchester Evening News 15 February 2007
  46. Preston Bus to be Sold Competition Commission 11 November 2009
  47. Company must sell 'bus war' rival BBC News 11 November 2009
  48. Stagecoach must sell Preston Bus Lancashire Evening Post 11 November 2009
  49. "Boycott call in Stagecoach 'anti-gay' row". BBC News. 14 January 2000. Retrieved 7 November 2007.
  50. "'Terrible' Stagecoach bus service in Cambridge only on time for 60 per cent of journeys last month". Cambridge News. 9 November 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  51. Scott, Richard (8 August 2011). "hands-free bus". BBC News. Retrieved 14 April 2012.

Further reading

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