First Bus bosses have poured cold water on ambitious Aberdeen council plans to buy them out.
The ruling Conservative, Aberdeen Labour and independent administration in the town house have long sought to run a public sector fleet – similar to Edinburgh’s Lothian buses.
Bringing back public buses was a key part of the local Labour manifesto in 2017, but it has emerged First may be looking to attract a wider pool of potential buyers.
The firm currently runs most city routes – and council chiefs had previously entered into talks about buying the Aberdeen part of the business.
Last year the firm announced a major restructuring of the company – giving hope to the local authority that it could fulfil its ambitions.
It’s understood that the council was interested in buying the firm’s fleet and base – including the King Street depot – in what would have been a multi-million-pound deal.
But last night, a First Bus spokesman said that the firm would be making “improvements” before considering any sale.
He said: “Our bus companies are attractive businesses and we are confident that greater value can be created from more efficient operations.
“We are delivering on plans that will improve operational performance in First Bus and the results of this will be visible in the coming months, and beyond.
“Therefore, we intend to deliver these improvements before launching any sale process.
“In the meantime, we continue to improve the experience for customers across our networks by investing in enhancements such as Tap and Cap, which is a London-style capping system using a contactless card that gives our customers flexibility, choice and great value on regular daily or weekly travel by bus.
“We are also partnering with Aberdeen City Council to deliver a world’s first later this year with the launch of 15 new zero emission double decker Hydrogen buses for the city.”
A senior city council source said despite the wait they would continue to pursue the deal when the firm was ready.
He added: “This is a major council policy.”
A new transport bill has recently been passed at Holyrood which gives councils powers to buy bus firms for the first time.
The city’s Grampian Buses were privatised in 1989.