Stagecoach Highlands

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Stagecoach Highlands
A Stagecoach Highlands MCV Evora at Portree bus station in November 2022
ParentStagecoach Group plc
Founded1945 (Rapsons)
2008 (Stagecoach Highlands)
HeadquartersInverness, Scotland, UK
Service areaScottish Highlands, Inverness, Orkney
Service typeBus and coach
HubsInverness, Thurso, Kirkwall, Portree, Fort William
Fuel typeDiesel and electric
OperatorStagecoach Group
WebsiteOfficial Website

Stagecoach Highlands is a division of the Stagecoach Group operating within the Scottish Highlands as well as on the Orkney Islands and Isle of Skye. The company is based in Inverness and covers most of the former Rapson Group bus and coach operations, which were taken over by Stagecoach in May 2008.


A Rapsons Wright Handybus in Fort William in 2006
An Orkney Coaches Wright Eclipse Urban passing Cursiter Farm on the A965 in June 2008

The Rapsons Group was Scotland's largest independent operator, formed as a group of companies serving the Highlands & Islands and based from its headquarters at Seafield Road, Inverness. The company traded as Rapsons Coaches, Highland Country Buses, Orkney & Causeway Coaches and also operated on long-distance Scottish Citylink and National Express contracts. Rapsons operated over 250 vehicles with around 400 employees based at depots in Inverness, Aviemore, Fort William, Portree, Wick, Thurso & Kirkwall. While regular bus services traded as Highland Country, longer distance, express and private contract work operated under the Rapsons name.

Rapsons were founded in 1945 but came further into business between the 1970s to 1980s. In August 1991, Highland Scottish was sold to a consortium made up of Rapsons Coaches and Clansman Travel and Leisure, the holding company for Scottish Citylink, which had recently been purchased from the Scottish Bus Group through a management and employee buyout, for £800,000.[1][2] In March 1993, ownership of Highland Scottish passed wholly to Rapsons.[3]

Prior to Highland Scottish's sale, the company initially maintained a monopoly over bus services in Inverness, operating minibuses in competition with Inverness Traction, a company formed by former Highland employees in 1988.[4] Inverness Traction entered receivership in April 1989,[5] but were subsequently purchased by Alexander (North East), who too collapsed in November 1989 due to unpaid debts.[6] The assets and services of Inverness Traction were purchased by Stagecoach Holdings,[7] who by 1991, were engaged in a bus war with Highland that saw a large number of Highland drivers defect to Stagecoach after they received a pay cut.[8] Highland would soon scale down the level of competition against Stagecoach, and soon after, Stagecoach would purchase the Inverness and Tain operations of Highland Scottish and become the dominant operator of Inverness area bus services.[citation needed]

In October 1995, Highland Scottish was split in two, with Rapsons retaining the eastern services[specify] under Highland Bus & Coach Ltd while the remainder passed to a new company, Highland Country Buses Ltd, which was bought by National Express for £1.8 million. The two companies continued to exist under separate ownership until August 1998, when Rapsons bought Highland Country Buses back from National Express for £4 million.[9]

In 1999, Rapsons began to expand into the Orkney Islands with the acquisition of four separate bus companies, including the two largest, James D. Peace and Shalder Coaches. The acquisition of Shalder Coaches also allowed Rapsons to expand into Shetland, with the company trading as Shetland Coaches from a depot at Lower Scord, Scalloway.[10] Rapsons pulled out of Shetland in 2003 after they lost all service contracts when going for an increase in rates,[clarification needed] while Rapsons' Orkney operations would be rebranded Orkney Coaches in April 2005, with Orkney Coaches operated as a separate subsidiary of Highland Country.[11]

In March 2006, Rapsons gave up most of their long-distance coach contracts with Scottish Citylink and National Express. Later in November, around 200 Rapsons workers affiliated with the Transport and General Workers' Union planned a series of 24-hour strikes in a pay dispute, with union officials wanting driver's pay equal to their Stagecoach competitors at £8 an hour.[12] The strikes were prevented when workers were offered and later accepted an improved pay offer from Rapsons' management.[13][14]

On 16 May 2008, it was announced that the Stagecoach Group would purchase the operations of Rapsons, including Highland Country Buses and Orkney Coaches Ltd, consolidating the group's position in the north of Scotland. The sale was completed in June 2008, adding over 200 buses to the Stagecoach fleet.[15][16]

In April 2011 the operations at Inverness & Easter Ross were transferred to the Highland Country operating licence from the Bluebird Buses licence. In late 2011, the depot at Burnett Road closed, with the company now operating from the former Rapsons Inverness depot at Seafield Road, Inverness, which was reopened by Stagecoach.

In April 2018, Stagecoach Highlands announced it would close its Fort William depot in Caol, which housed eight buses and employed 16 members of staff;[17] the depot was subsequently purchased by local independent operator Shiel Buses in July.[18]



An 'Inverness ElectriCity' battery electric Optare Solo SR in February 2020

A majority of Stagecoach Highlands buses operate in or around the city of Inverness, where the company operates the 'Inverness City Network'.[19] Stagecoach has operated a number of battery electric buses on this network; six 'Inverness ElectriCity'-branded electric Optare Solo SRs entered service in June 2015,[20][21] later followed by 25 Yutong E10s which began entering service around the city from early 2023.[22]

In August 2022, Stagecoach Highlands and the Highlands and Islands Strategic Transport Partnership (HiTrans) launched a pilot autonomous bus service connecting the Inverness Campus with a nearby retail & business park, running in parallel to a similar trial conducted in Hannover, Germany. The bus, manufactured by Navya SAS, carries 15 passengers, including four standees, and will operate in Inverness until March 2023.[23][24]

Stagecoach in Inverness formerly ran the 'JET' service from Inverness Airport to Inverness city centre, Ardersier, Nairn, Forres and Elgin, launched in 2007 by Rapsons with the support of HiTrans. The route won the award for Scotland's Best Bus Service in 2010,[25] however, the 'JET' branding was replaced with the arrival of eight Alexander Dennis Enviro200 MMCs in regular Stagecoach livery for the Inverness Airport corridor in September 2018.[26]

Orkney Islands[edit]

Stagecoach operates local and some school bus services on the Mainland island of the Orkney Islands on contract to the Orkney Islands Council, with services operating from a single depot in Kirkwall.[27] Between October 2021 and January 2022, the Orkney operation received 25 MCV Evora-bodied Volvo B8RLEs and nine Optare Solo SRs.[28][29]

Isle of Skye[edit]

Stagecoach is the primary bus operator on the Isle of Skye, operating buses out of a single depot in Portree.[30] The Skye operation also took delivery of MCV Evoras, with eleven being delivered in November 2022 for use on both local and school services in the area.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Highland Scottish sold to Clansman/Rapsons consortium". Bus & Coach Buyer. No. 113. Spalding: Glen-Holland Limited. 12 July 1991. p. 3.
  2. ^ "Scottish consortium heads for Highland". Commercial Motor. Temple Press. 11 July 1991. p. 13. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  3. ^ "Rapson's takes over Highland bus firm". The Herald. Glasgow. 7 March 1993. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  4. ^ "Rebel busmen go solo". Commercial Motor. Temple Press. 21 July 1988. p. 5. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  5. ^ "Inverness loses bus war". Commercial Motor. Temple Press. 6 April 1989. p. 24. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  6. ^ "Alexanders debt crash". Commercial Motor. Temple Press. 23 November 1989. p. 18. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  7. ^ "Magicbus goes north". Commercial Motor. Temple Press. 14 December 1989. p. 23. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  8. ^ "Highland drivers defect". Commercial Motor. Temple Press. 12 September 1991. p. 22. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  9. ^ "Citylink takes road south to Metroline". The Herald. Glasgow. 25 August 1998. Retrieved 21 January 2023. In a parallel deal also announced yesterday, National Express has sold Highland Country Buses to Inverness-based bus and coach operator Rapsons for £4.0m. It was Rapsons which sold this business to National Express for £1.8m in January 1996 and the English company will book a gain of about £2.2m.
  10. ^ "Rapsons buys Shalders Coaches". The Herald. Glasgow. 13 April 1999. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  11. ^ "Orkney Coaches Limited Report and Financial Statements". Ernst & Young. 29 September 2005. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  12. ^ Candlish, Jane (4 November 2006). "North bus drivers to strike over pay dispute". The Press and Journal. Dundee. p. 2. ProQuest 333967310.
  13. ^ Wilson, Paul (8 November 2006). "Last-minute talks head off strike on the buses". The Press and Journal. Dundee. p. 1. ProQuest 334034769.
  14. ^ Wilson, Paul (17 November 2006). "North bus drivers' strike called off after deal reached over pay". The Press and Journal. Dundee. p. 4. ProQuest 334040839.
  15. ^ Bain, Simon (17 May 2008). "Stagecoach buys Rapson operations". The Herald. Glasgow. p. 25. ProQuest 333069820.
  16. ^ Garnett, Andrew (6 June 2008). "Stagecoach expands in the north of Scotland with deal to acquire Rapsons". TransportXtra. London. Retrieved 17 January 2023.(subscription required)
  17. ^ "Stagecoach to close Fort William depot". BBC News. 3 April 2018. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  18. ^ "Shiel Buses expands service". Lochaber Chamber of Commerce. 24 July 2018. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  19. ^ "Inverness City Network". Stagecoach North Scotland. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  20. ^ Rooney, Richard (7 June 2015). "Inverness goes green with smart buses". The Press and Journal. Aberdeen. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  21. ^ Cork, Laura (20 January 2016). "Stagecoach runs for longer with Optare Solo". Transport Engineer. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  22. ^ "Stagecoach Inverness network prepares for electric shift". routeone. 17 January 2023. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  23. ^ "Scotland's first autonomous bus pilot project launched in Inverness". Coach & Bus Week. Peterborough: Emap. 18 October 2022. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  24. ^ Ramage, Iain (17 August 2022). "Free rides offered as driverless bus service introduced in city". STV News. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  25. ^ "Inverness Airport bus service is Best Bus Service in Scotland" (Press release). The Highlands and Island Transport Partnership. 18 November 2010. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  26. ^ "Stagecoach invests £1.1 million in new ADL buses for Inverness Airport". Coach & Bus Week. Peterborough: Emap. 11 September 2018. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  27. ^ MacDonald, Sandy (9 June 2021). "Stagecoach orders new fleet for new Orkney contracts". Buses. Stamford: Key Publishing. Retrieved 17 January 2023.(subscription required)
  28. ^ "New buses to hit the road on Monday". The Orcadian. 22 October 2021. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  29. ^ "New Orkney bus fleet complete". The Orcadian. 10 January 2022. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  30. ^ Peat, Chris (4 August 2016). "New Stagecoach depot". Bus & Coach Buyer. Peterborough. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  31. ^ "Stagecoach Highlands takes 11 Volvo MCVs for Skye". routeone. 7 November 2022. Retrieved 17 January 2023.

External links[edit]

Media related to Stagecoach Highlands at Wikimedia Commons