West Coast Motors: 100 years of bringing people together (Part III)

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Down Memory Lane

A century after Campbeltown-based coach operator West Coast Motors was founded, bus enthusiast Lawrence Macduff, who splits his time between Kilmarnock and Dunoon, has penned a commemorate article delving into the company’s history from 1921 to the present day.

The piece, and several photographs also supplied by Lawrence, is being published in the Courier. Photographs from the early days up to 1980 are from the collections of the late Robert Grieves and from John Sinclair, two indefatigable photographers whose material is of national Scottish importance. This week’s article is the conclusion.

Part three

West Coast’s business portfolio now extends well beyond Kintyre.

In 2006, it bought the Glasgow Citybus concern which operates on the north side of the Clyde.

Two years on, it also picked up a city tour business which is now operated under the City Sightseeing franchise in Glasgow.

It also operates the inter-rail station shuttle in the city.

An interesting diversification in 2009 was what became a fast passenger ferry link from Campbeltown to Ballycastle while a few years further on, Fairline Coaches, based near the company’s Glasgow Citybus depot in Whiteinch, Glasgow, was absorbed into West Coast.

The company also won the contract to operate Citylink’s new Glasgow-Edinburgh Airport service and additionally, partnered Fort William-based Shiel Buses on Citylink’s Glasgow-Fort William and Skye services.

Perhaps the biggest and most significant recent extension of West Coast’s business came with the creation of Borders Buses. The company acquired services radiating into the region from Edinburgh as well local route networks taking it as far south as Berwick on Tweed.

As a result, the West Coast identity is to be found all over the Borders.

Combined vehicle strength is now around 300, a far cry from fewer than 20 in the 1970s.

I’d like to conclude this abbreviated survey with two final observations. Firstly, I wish to acknowledge and applaud the drive and foresight of the Craig family in building the business from its original heartland in the southernmost area of Argyll.

Public transport is full of challenges whether air, sea, rail or road and, as in every field of business life, there are never any guarantees of success.

Once any business reaches a successful position, it often requires even more effort to maintain it there, let alone continue to grow it in size and influence.

The presence of Covid since 2020 has, of course, created major difficulties for every business virtually across the board.

Finally, a word of praise for the staff and especially for those who are engaged on the vital long-distance links, particularly the Campbeltown, Oban and Skye services.

These routes are not only amongst the most weather prone in Scotland, they operate almost exclusively over ordinary trunk roads, invariably convoluted in nature and of borderline width for the safe transit of long vehicles.

A driver myself, though never on any of these routes, I’m familiar with all these roads and have some perception of the extreme challenges drivers frequently face.

To them, and to all the company’s staff and management, I, and I’m sure many readers who are users of the services West Coast Motors provide across Argyll and in other parts of Scotland, offer grateful thanks.