Operators clash over Aberdeen bus station

Flixbus and Stagecoach in disagreement over bus station usage

A dispute has reared between Stagecoach and Flixbus over usage of Aberdeen bus station.

Flixbus has claimed that Stagecoach, without warning, announced that the intercity coach operator cannot be given any further slots to pick up and drop off passengers as part of its expansion plans.

Stagecoach does not own the bus station but they have a mandate to run it.

Flixbus reports it is now being forced to operate from the street as it cannot have some stops in the station and some outside. This now sees passengers carrying suitcases and other luggage on the street, which it says is ‘totally unacceptable’. Following a health and safety assessment, Flixbus reports Stagecoach informed the company that its slots at the station would be withdrawn.

Flixbus Managing Director, Andreas Schorling, said: “Stagecoach has an ownership stake in Scottish Citylink which is a direct competitor to Flixbus and operates some of the lines for them. There is a glaring conflict of interests when it comes to their management of the bus station.”

Flixbus’s legal adviser Professor Peter Watson of PBW Law has now intimated by letter to Stagecoach at their Inverness HQ that a formal complaint will be submitted to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) should the matter not be immediately resolved.

Professor Watson said: “Stagecoach and its associated company Citylink are in a dominant position insofar as the operation of the Aberdeen bus station. Our clients’ inability to provide further services for which there is demand has the effect of restricting competition and frustrating customer demand. Our client has suffered loss and will continue to suffer loss as a direct result of Stagecoach’s actions. Our client considers the situation requires, in the public interest, a full and open investigation by the CMA.”

Mr Schorling added: “We will be informing Scottish Transport Minister Mr Kevin Stewart, MSP of our actions. And as he is the local MSP we are certain he will also appreciate the appalling manner in which our passengers are being treated in Aberdeen by Stagecoach. We also know Mr Stewart and his Scottish Government colleagues are huge supporters of getting people out of their cars and back into public transport.”

Flixbus partnered Scottish company McGill’s to provide regular coach services, up to hourly by the summer, for Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth, Dundee and Stirling. This is all part of Flixbus’s plans to build the largest intercity coach network in the UK. The collaboration will by summer see 25 coaches on the Flixbus-McGill’s partner network.

McGill’s CEO Ralph Roberts, who is also President of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, said: “We cannot see a return to the days where a city is being treated as a personal fiefdom. We fully support the government in their green initiatives, and we all want to see more people choosing to travel by bus.”

Stagecoach rejects ‘inaccurate statements’

Stagecoach rejects what it describes as inaccurate statements made by Flixbus.

A spokesperson for Stagecoach said: “The picture presented is misleading and does not reflect what is a safety and capacity issue.

“We have been in discussions with Flixbus since early March on their proposals for the summer season. It is untrue that Flixbus would have slots withdrawn. Bus stations do have limits on capacity and there are important safety concerns that need to be addressed. There is an existing dispute resolution process which is available to Flixbus.

“As the manager of the bus station, we have a responsibility to ensure that customers, staff and vehicles can move safely and effectively within the station. This means that we must monitor the capacity of the station and consider the impact on safety and traffic congestion when evaluating requests for additional departures. We recognise the duty to manage the relationship with all third-party operators in a fair manner and we reject the suggestions of anti-competitive intent.

“We have endeavoured to have a constructive dialogue with Flixbus at all stages, including detailed discussions about how their proposed journeys could be safely accommodated within the bus station. We have suggested amendments to their proposed schedules to facilitate easier access to bus stands and we remain open to further discussions with Flixbus to address their concerns.”

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