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Bus firm Xplore Dundee sold to McGill’s Buses but it will be ‘business as usual’ for passengers

Some of Xplore Dundee fleet.
Some of Xplore Dundee fleet.

Bus company Xplore Dundee has been acquired by Greenock-based McGill’s Buses.

Transport firm National Express confirmed the sale of its Dundee operation today but said it would be “business as usual” for customers.

McGill’s was founded in 2001 and is owned by Sandy and James Easdale, who have been Rangers FC shareholders since 2013.

Rangers FC investment

In 2013 the businessmen claimed to hold the largest stake in Rangers FC through family holdings and supporting investors after securing a deal to buy the shares of former chief executive Charles Green.

McGill’s Buses owners James and Sandy Easdale.

Sandy became football board chairman and James was a director until 2015. They retain a shareholding in the Ibrox club.

When the deal completes this year McGill’s will be licenced to operate 850 buses, have 1,200 employees and a turnover of £60m. It will make the firm the biggest UK independent bus operator.

Plans for recovery

For customers of Xplore Dundee, and its coach travel arm Xplore More, it will be “business as usual”, with its network plans and fares freeze to go ahead as planned.

Xplore Dundee managing director Christine McGlasson said: “We have enjoyed 23 years as part of the National Express Group.

Christine McGlasson.

“Under McGill’s we can continue to recover and grow our business with another Scottish operator at the helm experiencing similar conditions and under the same authorities as our own.

“Xplore Dundee is a strong, resilient business with an excellent team of people within it.

“I have no doubt we will continue in our mission to provide a top class public transport service for the people of this city.”

Xplore Dundee and Xplore More has 350 employees and a fleet of 120 buses.

Operating from East Dock Street, it has annual sales of around £18m. The acquisition price is undisclosed.

Rapid growth of McGill’s buses

Ralph Roberts, chief executive of McGill’s Buses, said: “We are purchasing the shares of the company and all activities will carry on as normal. There are no immediate plans to change the branding of the buses.”

McGill’s Buses has grown rapidly during the past decade following its purchase of Arriva Scotland West in a landmark deal in March 2012.

McGill’s Buses.

The group carried more than 30 million passenger journeys in 2019.

Last March, McGill’s unveiled 26 low-emission buses bought from Alexander Dennis in a £4.75 million purchase.

That acquisition took McGill’s capital investment since 2014 to more than £30m.

Easdale brothers’ other interests

The Easdale brothers also have construction interests and this week they announced the development of an extensive waterfront site at Dumbarton. Their total construction projects are more than £400m.

They also have a stake in Glenrothes paper mill Tullis Russell.

The Tullis Russell site near Markinch.

Sandy Easdale said: “We have a clear vison for growth and profitability and we are able to conclude deals speedily and with the minimum of fuss. This is the way we have always worked.”

McGill’s chairman James Easdale said: “The Xplore acquisition is a perfect fit for us. Whilst others are shying away from investment, we are always looking for new opportunities in both construction and transport.”

Concerns at timetable changes

Dundee Labour’s city development spokesperson Councillor Richard McCready said he wanted to meet with Xplore Dundee’s new owners.

He said: “I will be seeking a meeting with McGill’s at the earliest opportunity to hear their plans for the future of bus services in Dundee.

“I will also be looking to speak to unions like Unite to find out their views on the new owners.

City bus routes cut as Xplore Dundee reveals ‘biggest change’ to network ‘since the 1950s’

‘I have real concerns about the proposed changes which Xplore Dundee are proposing to make in January.

“There are too many areas with older people who will be missing out on services for example.

“I want whoever operates bus services in Dundee to do just that operate a service.  Buses are crucial to the future of our city.”

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