The cost of bus franchising has been “grossly” underestimated, according to a bus firm opposed to the plan.

SPT voted last month to pursue a franchising model where the authority allocates routes and services to commercial firms and sets fares, frequency and timetables.

McGill’s Buses claims it would allow other firms to bid for the business it has built up and invested hundreds of millions of pounds in, over more than 20 years.

Owners Sandy and James Easdale, have now said the figure put on the cost to the public purse will be many times more than what SPT said.

The cost was put at somewhere between £45 million and £85m a year in additional subsidy to operate franchising.

Sandy Easdale, said: “We now have the figures to show that this plan would cost the taxpayer £400m a year as opposed to the £85m that SPT is claiming. This is another ferry debacle in the making but is many times bigger.”

James Easdale added: “What I don’t understand is that the First Minister Humza Yousaf has already said that he won’t pay the bill for this so it will fall on the local councils who make up SPT.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought these councils have all but run out of cash?”

Glasgow Times: McGill's is nominated across six categories

Ralph Roberts, McGill’s chief executive, said his team has worked on the costs of the model.

He said: “At a high level they predict that the franchised network would deliver up to an additional 40m bus journeys per annum and would cost up to £85m per annum so that would cost a straightforward £2 per ride. This is broadly in line with current costs so no huge surprise.

“However, when you realise that the franchising wish list beyond the additional buses is going to cost significantly more money, you must then adjust the cost base of the entire operation.”

Mr Roberts said the additional ambitions include a more efficient network, better punctuality and reliability, lower fares, sustainability and environmental improvements, integrated ticketing and fares capping.

He said: “For example, increasing the efficiency of the network involves spending on infrastructure to the tune of £1.5bn over the whole of Strathclyde, £500m of which is in the Glasgow area alone.

“To increase the affordability of the network – i.e. reduce fares – it costs more again and on it goes. The fares reduction alone would be in the order of £150m to £200m in cost per annum.”

Glasgow Times:

He added: “Totting up all of the qualitative costs on top of the network expansion, plus the amortisation of the huge one-off costs, means that a £400m additional cost per annum is actually a conservative estimate.”

A spokesperson for SPT said: “The Strathclyde Regional Bus Strategy (SRBS) Case for Change unequivocally highlighted a need for reform to stem the sustained decline in the bus market.

 “A public consultation on SPT’s recommended bus reform options, including franchising, as set out in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019, is currently open. 

“SPT encourages everyone with an interest in the future of the bus to participate in this important consultation. The deadline for responding is midnight on Monday 31 May, you can access the consultation via the SPT website at: