EVERY day tens of thousands of people in Glasgow drop coins in the fare slot, tap their bank card on the reader or top up their mobile app to pay bus fares to get around the city.

The cost of public transport has been highlighted in the last two weeks after delegates, observers and media at the COP26 summit got a free travel pass.

It has been argued by campaigners that people in the city should have more affordable, or free, public transport, too.

READ MORE: Rip off: Glasgow bus fares higher than other cities

In our latest Spotlight series, The Glasgow Times is looking at the cost of bus travel and where the money goes.

As well as paying for the buses, drivers and investment in future services, executive pay is one destination for your cash.

The boss at the wheel of Glasgow’s biggest bus firm received a whopping remuneration package of £840,000 last year.

Despite the big drop in passengers during and after the lockdowns, with many people still working from home, the groups that run the main bus firms in and around Glasgow still made healthy profits.

It is mainly due to governments making payments to ensure public transport services were still available for essential workers and those who needed to travel.

The Scottish Government essentially funded First Bus and others through the pandemic to keep buses on the road.

First Glasgow, the biggest bus operator in Glasgow, is part of First Group, which runs bus services around the UK.

Matthew Gregory, recently departed CEO of Aberdeen-based First Group, which owns First Glasgow, was paid a salary of £592,667, for 2020/21 after he agreed to take a 20% pay cut. His pay went back up, in 2021/22, to £635,000.

Glasgow Times:

When other benefits like pension and shares are included in his overall package, he received £840,000 from running the international transport firm.

Ryan Mangold, First’s finance director, Gregory’s number two, earned £420,000 after his 20% pay cut. His total package was £502,000. Taken together, the two men at the top of First Group were due to be paid more than £1.3 million in 2021, next year the salaries are due to increase.

Glasgow Times:

The CEO was paid 30 times the median salary at First.

Gregory left First Group this year after concerns about a deal he was in charge of.

The company’s biggest shareholder is New York-based hedge fund Coast Capital, which owns 15% of shares.

Gregory stood down in September this year as CEO after concerns about the sale of two firms in the USA owned by First.

Coast Capital thought he sold First Student and First Transit too cheaply, providing a poor deal for shareholders.

The gap between the SEO and the men and women in Glasgow, who are actually at the wheel, driving the people who pay the hard cash, is even greater. Drivers are paid between £10 and £12 per hour. First Group made a profit in 2021 of £36m from a turnover of £690m.

A FirstGroup spokesperson said: “Our executive remuneration policy is approved by shareholders, is market-competitive, operates on a performance-based framework and is aligned with strategy and business objectives.

“In recognition of the pandemic there was no increase in base salary for the executive directors for the 2021/22 year, and no bonus was paid in 2021, both for the second year in succession.”

Stagecoach, which runs services into and out of Glasgow, made a profit of £48m from a turnover of £928m in 2021.

The firm’s UK bus operation outside London accounted for £662m of the turnover.

Martin Griffiths, the chief executive, was rewarded to the tune of £949,000, last year.

Glasgow Times:

Brian Souter, Stagecoach co- founder and now non-executive director was paid £163,000.

The CEO to diver ratio with Stagecoach is even higher.

The boss at the top, Mr Griffiths, earns more than 40 times the salary of the women and men who drive the buses.

Glasgow Times:

Stagecoach pays bus drivers up to £11.65 per hour. Or £23,000 a year.

A spokesperson for Stagecoach said: “Stagecoach has been regularly independently assessed as offering the best value weekly bus travel in the UK and we reinvest the income from fares in improving services for customers and introducing new greener vehicles to serve local communities.

“We recently agreed with trade unions significant pay increases for our people in Scotland, reflecting the important contribution they have and continue to make to the country in delivering vital public transport services. Income from bus passenger fares remains below the costs of operating services due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“None of our senior managers have received any pay rises for the past two years. Our chief executive and finance director last received a salary increase four years ago and, along with many other executives, took voluntary pay cuts during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

McGill’s, Buses based in Greenock has been a growing presence in the bus market in and around Glasgow in the last ten years. Compared to First and Stagecoach they are small players but still employ hundreds of staff and are making a considerable profit from bus services.

Glasgow Times:

The latest accounts available for the firm, show it made a gross profit of £9.3m from £36.5m turnover in 2019, before the pandemic. The operating profit after administrative expenses was just under £1.8m.

The firms four directors were paid in total £559,000 – five times the average for drivers and mechanics. The remaining 689 staff including 658 drivers and mechanics were paid an average of £25,113.

McGill’s CEO, Ralph Roberts, said: “McGill’s has invested heavily in a £32.5 million project to deliver 68 all electric zero emission city buses.

“We have installed two two-megawatt charging hubs at our Renfrewshire depots and a 1.5 megawatt hub at our Dundee depot. This investment will deliver an enormous reduction in CO2 emissions, estimated at over 2.7 billion grams per year. McGill’s is now the largest operator of electric buses in Scotland as well as operating the largest private EV charging infrastructure in Scotland. We are proud of the outstanding commitment and professionalism of our staff as we transition to an industry-leading net zero bus network.

“We value our staff highly, especially those at the front line delivering a public service 24/7 so we keep boardroom pay tightly under control.”