Bus drivers warned over anti-tram Facebook page

Stop the Edinburgh tram extension Facebook page
Stop the Edinburgh tram extension Facebook page
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Bus bosses have fired a warning shot at employees who have made scathing criticisms of the proposed extension of the Capital’s tramline on social media.

Lothian Buses - which runs both buses and trams - said it was reissuing guidance which tells employees they should express views in a personal capacity and not as an employee of the company.

The move comes after a Facebook group called Stop the Edinburgh Tram Extension was set up with many drivers among its membership, which has soared from 450 to over 2000.

The city council has agreed in principle to take trams down Leith Walk and on to Newhaven at a cost of £162 million, but a further decision will be needed next month before any work begins.

Part of the finance for the project is planned to come from a £20m “extraordinary dividend” from Lothian Buses, but concerns have been raised about the possible effects of such an arrangement on fares and services.

The Unite union has spoken out against “plundering” bus profits to subsidise the trams.

On the Facebook page, admin Gary Johnstone, whose profile picture shows him in uniform at the wheel of a Lothian bus, welcomed the surge in membership: “Brilliant. Thank you so much. But we need more. Tell your friends to tell their friends. Let’s keep the wheels on the bus going round and round.”

Lothian Buses, which has around 2200 employees, said it would be recirculating its social media policy to staff.

A spokesman said: “Employees can make use of Facebook and express views but we expect this to be in a personal capacity and not as an employee of the company. We will be reminding employees of guidance previously issued on this matter and of their responsibility to behave appropriately in line with this guidance.”

Unite said all organisations had social media policies and they had to be adhered to. But he said the Facebook posts reflected the depth of feeling among the workforce about the proposed tram extension.

“We stress that this is not an anti-tram/pro-bus debate but that the proposals and the timing for this extension are wrong. “The council is talking about a redistribution of revenues from Lothian Buses to cover a funding gap of £25 million minimum for extending the tram route. And this is at a time of a funding crisis at the council. The council has bigger priorities it should be focusing on - sustaining jobs and services.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com