THE major bus operator serving Inverclyde has been fined more than £60,000 for failing to stick to the timetable on some of its routes – including the dedicated service from Wemyss Bay which is used by many Bute residents to get to Inverclyde Royal Hospital.
McGill's Bus Services Ltd of Greenock was hit with the financial penalty by Joan Aitken, the transport commissioner for Scotland, who issued her findings this week after a public inquiry in Edinburgh in March.
The inquiry heard evidence that service 575 – which meets Caledonian MacBrayne's ferry service from Rothesay and operates on request to the IRH – was registered to run as a return service, but had only been operating in one direction, from Wemyss Bay.
The inquiry was also told the departure times of some service 575 journeys had been held back to incorporate late-running ferries.
"The manner in which the service was operated amounted to one hundred per cent non-compliance," Ms Aitken stated in her report.
Evidence from bus compliance officers employed by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) also showed that on two dates in the summer of 2008, additional southbound buses showing number 576 were seen terminating at Wemyss Bay – and that these were in fact the 575 service showing the wrong number.
In her decision on the service 575 breaches, Ms Aitken said: "I take a dim view of destination signage not being accurate.
"I accept that there is sense in buses awaiting the ferry they are there to meet, but this should be formalised in the registration."
The company was fined 60,500 for time-table breaches which occurred on the Wemyss Bay route and on services in the Port Glasgow area which were taken over from another operator, Slaemuir Coaches.
Ms Aitken also used her inquiry report to criticise "gossip-mongers and those who expect me to act on their chit-chat" for spreading what she regarded as unfounded allegations about Sandy Easdale, described as "the controlling force" behind the McGill's company.
Ms Aitken said she had no evidence that Mr Easdale or any other member of the Easdale family connected to McGill's were engaged in any criminal activities.
Ms Aitken also gave permission for McGill's to increase the size of their fleet from 110 buses to 150.