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 Gloag set up a small recreational vehicle and minibus hire business called Gloagtrotter in Perth, Scotland. Ann's brother, Brian Souter, an accountant, joined the firm and expanded the business into bus hire. In 1982, with the collapse of his marriage to Ann, Robin Gloag sold his ownership stake in the business and ceased any involvement. The Transport Act 1980, which freed express services of 35 miles and over from regulation by the Traffic Commissioner, brought new opportunities for the company and services were launched from Dundee to London using second-hand Neoplan coaches. For a while, the company 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 Coaches 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 London Regional Transport, the National Bus Company, Scottish Bus Group and various city councils. The company consolidated its operations during the 1990s by purchasing ex NBC and SBG bus companies that had been purchased via Management buyouts and employee-owned corporations when privatised. Stagecoach left the long distance express coach market in 1988 when it sold its operations to National Express.
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. 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.
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. 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. Stagecoach are also active in the rail industry, currently having a 49% stake in Virgin Rail Group. In 2007 the group were successful in their bid for the new East Midlands franchise which had been created by amalgamating the previous Midland Mainline franchise with the eastern part of the former Central Trains franchise.
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.
Stagecoach South West – Stagecoach controls operations in Devon through Stagecoach Devon, consisting of (as of May 2003) Stagecoach Devon Limited. The trading name of this operation is Stagecoach in Devon. The headquarters are in Exeter.
Stagecoach East Midlands – Stagecoach controls operations in the East Midlands area through Stagecoach East Midlands. It consists of Lincolnshire Road Car Co Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Bassetlaw, Stagecoach in Mansfield, Stagecoach in South Yorkshire, Stagecoach Grimsby-Cleethorpes, Stagecoach in Hull and Stagecoach in Lincolnshire. The headquarters are in Lincoln.
Stagecoach East Scotland – Stagecoach controls operations in the east of Scotland, comprising Fife Scottish Omnibuses Ltd, Bluebird Buses Ltd, JW Coaches Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Perth, Stagecoach Bluebird, Stagecoach in Fife and Strathtay. It also operated the new Forth Fast hovercraft service from Kirkcaldy to Portobello. The headquarters are in Kirkcaldy as of 2009[update].
Stagecoach North Scotland – Stagecoach controls operations in Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen city, Moray and the Scottish Highlands. The Highlands business followed the takeover of The Rapsons Group (Orkney Coaches/Highland Country Buses) in 2008, adding to the network already operated in the City of Inverness by Stagecoach, consisting of Highland Country Buses Limited. It trades as Stagecoach in the Highlands, Stagecoach in Orkney (Kirkwall depot & outstations), and Stagecoach in Lochaber (Fort William depot), Stagecoach in Skye (Portree depot & outstation), Stagecoach in Inverness (Aviemore, Inverness and Tain depots) and Stagecoach in Caithness (Thurso depot & outstations). The North Scotland business also manages Stagecoach Bluebird which operates in Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen city and Moray. The North Scotland headquarters are in Inverness, with some commercial HQ functions also run from Aberdeen.
Stagecoach London – Stagecoach purchased the East London and Selkent divisions of London Buses when they were privatised in 1994. Both operate tendered services for Transport for London. Deciding to focus on organic growth for its UK bus operations, and citing the inflexibility of the London tendering system, the London bus operations were sold to Macquarie Group on 31 August 2006 for £263.6m. Macquarie continued to use the Stagecoach brand for a limited period under licence, and Stagecoach provided administrative and other support functions for a transitional period of 12 months from the sale. Macquarie rebranded both into their original East London and Selkent identities, albeit updated. In October 2010 Stagecoach reacquired its old London operations from Macquarie Bank for £59.5m with both operations once again rebranded as Stagecoach.
Stagecoach Manchester & Wigan – Stagecoach controls operations in Greater Manchester through Stagecoach Manchester, comprising Greater Manchester Buses (South) Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Manchester, Stagecoach in Wigan and Magic Bus. The headquarters are in Stockport.
Stagecoach North East – Stagecoach controls operations in the north east of England through Stagecoach North East, comprising Busways Travel Services Ltd and Cleveland Transit Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach on Teesside, Stagecoach in Hartlepool, Stagecoach in Newcastle, Stagecoach in South Shields and Stagecoach in Sunderland. The headquarters are in Sunderland.
Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancashire – Stagecoach controls most operations in the north west of England through Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancashire, comprising Cumberland Motor Services Ltd and Ribble Motor Services Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Cumbria, Stagecoach in Lancaster and Stagecoach in Lancashire. The headquarters are in Carlisle.
Stagecoach Oxfordshire – Stagecoach controls operations in Oxfordshire area through Stagecoach in Oxfordshire, comprising Thames Transit Ltd and Midland Red (South) Ltd (Banbury depot). Trading names include Stagecoach in Oxfordshire and Oxford Tube. The headquarters are in Oxford.
Stagecoach Sheffield – Stagecoach controls bus and tram operations in the Sheffield area of England through Stagecoach Sheffield, comprising Yorkshire Terrier, South Yorkshire Supertram Ltd and Andrews (Sheffield) Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Sheffield and Stagecoach Supertram. The headquarters are in Sheffield.
Stagecoach South – Stagecoach controls operations in the South of England through Stagecoach South, comprising Southdown Motor Services Ltd, Hampshire Bus Company Ltd and Stagecoach (South) Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Hants & Surrey, Stagecoach in Hampshire, Stagecoach in Portsmouth and Stagecoach in the South Downs. The headquarters are in Chichester.
Stagecoach South East – Stagecoach's operations in East Kent and East Sussex are managed as Stagecoach South East, comprising the East Kent Road Car Company Ltd (established 1916). Fleetnames used are Stagecoach in East Kent, Stagecoach in Eastbourne and Stagecoach in Hastings. The additional Stagecoach in East Sussex name is used on joint Eastbourne & Hastings publicity but is not carried on vehicles. The headquarters are at the Bus Station in Canterbury. Notable operations include the Canterbury Park and Ride, Canterbury Unibus (using bio buses), Dotto trains in Eastbourne and National Express services between London and the East Kent coast, using 13 Volvo/Plaxton Elite coaches.
Stagecoach South Wales or Stagecoach De Cymru / South Wales – Stagecoach controls operations in Wales through Stagecoach Wales, comprising Red & White Services Ltd, The trading name for these operations is Stagecoach in South Wales and Stagecoach De Cymru. The headquarters are in Cwmbran.
Stagecoach West – Stagecoach controls operations in the West of England through Stagecoach West, comprising Cheltenham & Gloucester Omnibus Company Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Cheltenham, Stagecoach in Swindon, Stagecoach in Gloucester, Stagecoach in the Cotswolds, Stagecoach in the Wye and Dean. The headquarters are in Gloucester.
Stagecoach West Scotland – Stagecoach controls operations in the west of Scotland through Stagecoach West Scotland, comprising Western Buses Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach Western, Stagecoach A1 Service, Stagecoach in Glasgow. The headquarters are in Ayr.
Stagecoach Yorkshire – Stagecoach controls operations in the Yorkshire area through Stagecoach Yorkshire, comprising Yorkshire Traction Co Ltd. Trading names include Stagecoach in Yorkshire, Stagecoach in Sheffield & Stagecoach in Chesterfield. The headquarters are in Barnsley.
Apart from the ordinary bus operations and no-frills services, the UK bus division has the following brands that extend across operating divisions.
Stagecoach Express – an express coach service that operates mainly between towns and cities where Stagecoach operate (e.g. Sheffield to Chesterfield). It tends not to compete with National Express like Megabus, and in some cases tickets are available through the National Express website.
Citi – some urban networks have received Citi branding, such as Cambridge, Exeter, Gloucester, Peterborough and Preston.
Stagecoach Gold – a luxury bus service brand designed to attract middle class travellers to public transport, generally on the most important and high-profile routes within an area served by Stagecoach. Gold buses typically feature a special blue and gold colour scheme, leather seats, and on-board Wi-Fi access. Both single-decker and double-decker gold buses are used.
Stagecoach SimpliBus operates in the East Midlands.
In July 2007 Stagecoach took over the operation of Manchester Metrolink on a 10-year fixed-term management contract, beating competition from Keolis, Serco and Transdev, to make it the biggest tram operator in the UK. 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.
South West Trains
South West Trains – Stagecoach ran this franchise from February 1996 to August 2017. It retained the franchise for three years from February 2004 and for a further 10 years from February 2007. The franchise passed to South Western Railway on 20 August 2017
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, which provided franchised bus services on Hong Kong Island and to and from Hong Kong International Airport as well as non-franchised services throughout Hong Kong, in March 1999 and then completed the privatisation of Citybus on 17 July 1999.
In November 1991 Stagecoach Holdings Limited (as it was named then), bought United Transport's shareholding 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.
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. In November 2005, the business was sold to Infratil and rebranded as NZ Bus.
Stagecoach carried out bus operations in the northeastern and midwestern United States and in eastern Canada. Businesses were focused on commuter services, and included tour and charter, sightseeing, local, and school bus operations:
Coach USA – operating primarily in the northeastern United States providing subsidised transit services (primarily in Greater New York), sightseeing, and charter services, and in the midwestern United States with primarily charter and sightseeing services. Yellow school bus services are also provided by Coach USA in the state of Wisconsin.
Megabus – discount express bus services radiating from Chicago and New York City. Like Megabus in the United Kingdom, most stops are made at street locations.
In December 2018 Stagecoach announced it had agreed to sell all of its North American operations to Variant Equity Advisors with the deal concluded in April 2019.
Stagecoach Portugal had its origins in the reprivatisation of Portuguese bus and coach operation, which had been nationalised after the 1974 Revolution. In 1990, the nationalised Rodoviária Nacional was split into ten components. In the capital, Lisbon, Rodoviária de Lisboa 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.
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. 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, to refocus its bus operation on the United States and Asia.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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. 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 & Mergers Commission.
In 2000 Stagecoach Manchester was found to have been employing bus inspectors to usher passengers away from competitor's services. In 2005 alleged aggressive behaviour by Stagecoach drivers, seeking to compete with Scotbus, resulted in an arson fire at a Stagecoach East Scotland garage.
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.
The Stagecoach Group number their buses using a system that applies for the life of the bus or until it is sold, as follows:
90000 – 99999: pool cars, staff transport vehicles, etc.
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.