Lothian Bus bosses scolded over ‘childish’ private plates prank

THE chairman of Lothian buses has apologised for coaches being fitted with personalised registration numbers targeted at rival operators – and ordered the plates to be removed.

Friday, 14th June 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 14th June 2019, 7:00 am
Bus bosses have been reprimanded over the registration plate prank.

The move, seen as a slap–down for the management team of the council–owned company, comes after tour firm Rabbie’s Trailburners complained about coaches operating under the Lothian Motorcoaches banner being re–registered with the plates LC19 RAB – taken as a reference to Rabbie’s – and LC19 AAA – seen as taunting another long–established rival, AAA Coaches, which has numbers ending AAA on all its vehicles.

One industry source estimated Lothian must have spent up to £700 on each bus to give them new numbers.

MSPs branded the re–registration of the coaches a “childish prank”.

Lothian Motorcoaches - part of Lothian Buses - have been buying up 'personalised' numberplates

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Rabbie’s chief executive Robin Worsnop wrote to council chiefs claiming the plates were the latest example of bullying and intimidation by Lothian Buses.

Now chairman Jim McFarlane has replied with a full apology.

In his letter, he said he was not aware of the purchase of the plates before Mr Worsnop’s complaint was forwarded to him.

And he argues the purchase of plates from DVLA is a common commercial practice among coach operators.

Tory councillor John McLellan. Pic: Neil Hanna

He continues: “Having now had the opportunity to look into the matter, I do not consider that the purchase and deployment of these particular plates constitutes intimidatory behaviour as you appear to be claiming.

“I do however concede that this may have been provocative towards your own business and that of AAA Coaches. I therefore view the purchase and deployment of these plates to have been inappropriate. 
Accordingly I apologise fully on behalf of Lothian buses Ltd and further advise that I have requested that the plates concerned be withdrawn.

He said suggestions Lothian buses had fitted another coach with a plate ending VOY – the surname of Timberbush founders June and Gary Voy – was “entirely inaccurate”.

Mr McFarlane said claims by Mr Worsnop of “bullying and intimidating tactics used by Lothian Buses staff at various bus stands across Edinburgh” and Lothian Buses’ “track record of attempts to create monopolies and their bullying tactics” were serious allegations and asked him to provide evidence.

Rabbies' founder Robin Worsnop.

He said: “In taking the decision to re–enter the coach and contract hire market, which we were entirely entitled to do, my expectation was that our business would operate in accordance with our normal high standards of integrity that includes treating our competitors with respect. This latter message is one that I will now reinforce to our executive 
team.”

Tory councillor John McLellan said: “For Lothian buses management it’s a slap-down the size of a 100-seat, triple–axle double decker, but after the company wasted what is effectively public money on such a childish wheeze, Mr McFarlane was left with very little option.

“I don’t think this will be the end of the matter and I’d 
expect the Lothian buses board will require a full explanation of the circumstances and an apology from those responsible for bringing the company into disrepute.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com