Bus drivers rebel against Leith tram line extension

There are plans to extend the line from the current stop at York Place down to Leith. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

There are plans to extend the line from the current stop at York Place down to Leith. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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BUS drivers are in open revolt against plans to extend the Capital’s controversial tram system.

A Facebook group called Stop the Edinburgh Tram Extension has been set up and counts many drivers among its 450-strong members. The city council recently agreed in principle to extend the line from its current terminus at York Place to Leith.

The original blueprint for the scheme was to head to Leith, but that was scrapped as the costs and delays of the project spiralled.

To pay for the extension, which is set to cost £162 million on top of the original £776m bill, council-owned Lothian Buses faces paying £20m by increasing fares.

The open defiance from bus firm employees is particularly embarrassing for the council as Lothian Buses also runs the trams under the umbrella of Transport for Edinburgh.

One driver, who did not wish to be named, said: “It is a group started up by drivers at Lothian. We will be fighting this again.

“The council are considering making Lothian pay £20m towards the extension by increasing fares.

“Right now we are trying to get as many members as possible. There have also been a number of online petitions started up.

“We don’t expect the councillors to listen, just like last time, but we have to try.”

On the site, contributors describing themselves as current employees of Lothian Buses include Alan J McLean, depot controller, and Gary Johnstone, PCV driver.

A comment on the Facebook page states: “Trainset for Councillors but the children won’t get one for Christmas as a result.”

The site also features a painting of a giant robot destroying trams with fiery lasers from its eyes.

Another member wrote: “This tram extension is a kick in the face to all these people who will be losing their jobs.”

Another wrote: “Edinburgh didn’t say yes. The council voted for it.”

A description reads: “OK boys and girls, it is time we made a stand against this council.

“Please get as many people you can to join the fight and join this group, the more people we have the more the council will have to take notice of us.”

A spokesman for the Scotland’s Worst Drivers campaign said: “Given the current need to save £170m from the council, including the need to axe 2000 jobs, speaks volumes.

“Yet they ‘have’ the money for a tram extension? It’s immoral at the very least. Why not hold a city-wide referendum on it?

The extended line would be part-financed by a £20m “extraordinary dividend” from Lothian Buses.

A final decision will be made at a council meeting on December 10.

Council leader Andrew Burns said: “The City of Edinburgh Council has, on many occasions, stated its commitment to Lothian Buses and our Coalition Pledge to ‘keep Lothian Buses in public hands’ is as strong as it was in 2012.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com