GREENOCK bus company McGill’s has placed a £2 million order for 20 brand new vehicles despite a decline in profits.

The Larkfield-based operator has signed a deal with Rochdale firm Mellor Coachcraft for a fleet of smaller, 21-seater buses for use on routes throughout Inverclyde, Renfrewshire and a new service for upper Skelmorlie.

It comes as the company, owned by Greenock businessmen James and Sandy Easdale, published its annual accounts.

Turnover rose by £1.2m to £39.5m in 2016 but pre-tax profits year-on-year dipped by nearly £1.5m to just over £2m.

Managing director Ralph Roberts blamed the fall on a number of factors, including increased staff and vehicle costs, ‘ultra-cheap’ car ownership, fuel prices, greater congestion on the roads, the growth of online retailing and stretched household budgets.

He said: “2016 has been a challenging year for the bus industry, not only in Scotland, but UK wide.”

Mr Roberts took a swipe at local and national politicians for favouring trains over buses.

He said: “Government and politicians have to get over their fascination with the train.

“Over 80 per cent of public transport journeys made are made on buses.

“Trains carry relatively few in comparison to buses, yet seem to take all of the headlines, political attention and public purse investment.”

He urged politicians and governments to work with the industry, adding that the bus is ‘part of the solution, not the enemy’.

McGill’s made a profit after tax of just over £1.5m in 2016 and employed an average of 831 people throughout the year — up by 15 on the previous 12 months.

Mr Roberts says the first 10 of the 20 new buses from Mellor will be rolled out in December and January with the rest to follow ‘shortly after’.