A bus company has been accused of spending public money to fit their tour coaches with personalised number plates targeted at rival operators.
Edinburgh City Council-owned Lothian Buses launched Lothian Motorcoaches a year ago, offering day trips to other parts of Scotland and prompting complaints of unfair competition from established private tour firms.
Now one of the Lothian coaches has been re-registered with the number LC19 AAA, which some have seen as a reference to AAA Coaches, which has numbers ending AAA on all their vehicles. Another coach has been given the plate LC19 RAB, taken as a reference to Rabbie’s Trailburners.
A third is understood to have the letters VOY, spelling out the name of the husband and wife team June and Gary Voy who founded Timberbush Tours 20 years ago.
One industry source estimated Lothian must have spent up to £700 on each bus to give them new numbers.
Rabbie’s chief executive Robin Worsnop has written to council chiefs to complain.
He wrote: “What does it say about the culture and governance of Lothian Buses that they have the time, inclination and money to buy these number plates, re-register the buses with VOSA and the DVLA, and recalibrate the tachographs? All monies that could have been released back to the citizens of Edinburgh in dividend payments.”
The row comes as Lothian Buses is engaged in bus wars on two fronts – one with First Bus, including over open-top sightseeing tours, the other with day tour operators such as AAA and Rabbie’s.
Tory councillor John McLellan said there was concern about Lothian Motorcoaches entering a commercial market where there were well-established smaller operators.
“If this has been done to rub their noses in it, that’s unacceptable,” he said. “To all intents and purposes this is public money and as such it seems to be a needless expense.
“If it’s true that this has been done as some kind of prank or jibe at commercial operators then it’s both inappropriate and infantile. Lothian Buses need to explain what’s going on here.”
He added: “It’s reasonable to expect the bus company to be managed with due decorum.”
A Lothian Buses spokeswoman said the company had decided not to comment.
A city council spokeswoman confirmed the letter from Mr Worsnop had been received.