MORE bus shelters face being removed in a bitter contract row that has already claimed three stops, leaving queuing passengers exposed to the elements.
Axed supplier Clear Channel said it would dismantle the shelters regardless of whether replacements were ready or not, with the row threatening to drag on into next year.
Clear Channel, which lost out on a new contract, swooped without warning on three of its shelters in the small hours of Thursday, leaving passengers at the Western General without a bus stop.
Temporary shelters will be installed at the hospital within a week, but a third shelter on Princes Street that was stripped of its walls, roof and signage cannot be replaced until metal poles and railings are removed.
Council officials have yet to sign a contract with the new bus shelter firm, believed to be French company JCDecaux, despite the previous deal expiring on August 3.
Even if a new deal is tied up, the Evening News understands the process would involve removing existing shelters and power cables, digging new foundations and rewiring – leaving passengers facing the prospect of queuing in the cold and rain for weeks or months.
Clear Channel hit back at accusations its behaviour was “irresponsible and unacceptable”, and warned that it would remove a “significant number” of shelters this year before stripping them all by February.
A spokesman said: “We are surprised to hear that new shelters may not be available for a number of months, as the tender required full replacement of all shelters within nine months from August 3, which now seems very unlikely.
“We remain committed to working with the council to ensure that the removal programme is completed with the least possible disruption to the city and its residents who we have been so proud to serve.
“We currently pay to wash, light and maintain the shelters in a safe condition, a situation which cannot continue indefinitely. From an accounting perspective we have to remove some shelters in 2014 in line with the contract.
“Over two months after the end of our contract, we are concerned that arrangements may not have been made by the council and the new supplier to replace our shelters, which we are contractually obliged to remove within six months of the end of our contract.”
Transport charities warned that residents would be put off using buses if the row drags on and more shelters vanish.
John Lauder, national director of Sustrans Scotland, said: “This is a very disappointing situation that has resulted in passengers being left, quite literally, exposed to the elements.
“Scenarios like this do not help in encouraging people to take public transport.”
A council spokeswoman said she could not give any indication of when a new deal would be signed due to commercial confidentiality.