Buses cash in on overpaid fares to tune of £340 a day

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PASSENGERS overpaying because they do not have the exact change earns Lothian Buses an extra £340 a day, it emerged today.

The amount banked in surplus fares has soared since the price of a ticket increased from a flat £1 rate to £1.20, and then £1.30.

But the council-owned bus firm also revealed today that it has had to write-off more than £300,000 in fares after travellers used fake and foreign coins.

Today’s figures show that overpaying has brought in an additional £600,000 on buses in Edinburgh over the last five years.

Edinburgh’s transport leader Councillor Gordon Mackenzie insisted today that keeping hold of the excess funds was “legitimate” and dismissed suggestions the cash could be donated to charity.

He said: “Lothian Buses is a very well-run bus company and as far as collecting fares goes, this is clearly the most efficient way of doing it.

“[Were it not for the surplus funds] we would potentially have to raise money through an increase in fares.

“I think this is a legitimate way to raise cash, and this cash helps with the smooth running of the business.”

In 2008, £70,000 was raised in surplus funds. This was followed by a huge increase in 2009 to £266,000, which is believed to have been caused by the increase of a single fare from £1 to £1.20.

However, foreign and counterfeit coins have proved an issue for the company in the past couple of years.

More than £308,000 was found to be fake or foreign currency, although it is not known how much is raised after foreign currency is converted.

Lothians Tory MSP Gavin Brown said Lothian Buses should look at ways of giving passengers change or credit notes. He said: “I would be interested to know how much it would cost them to have a system where they gave change or, if that’s not possible, is there a way of giving them a receipt for 20p or whatever which they could use towards their fare the next time they are on a bus?”

Ian Craig, managing director of Lothian Buses, said the surplus money was common for such businesses.

He said: “Every passenger is made aware that all payments are on an exact fare only basis.

“As a business, we handle millions of pounds of cash annually, so this small variance is as you would expect in any similar business.

“Lothian Buses regularly donates [to] and works with a range of local charities, and there is no reason to suggest this position will change.”

The company said users can travel using a variety of tickets or they can ask the driver for an overpayment receipt, which can be reclaimed later.

Every year the company contributes £12,000 to charitable causes.

vraimes@edinburghnews.com