End of the road for Edinburgh’s vintage sightseeing buses

Last trip for MacTour Routemaster buses.
Last trip for MacTour Routemaster buses.
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The iconic and much-loved buses have been taking visitors around the Capital’s most famous landmarks for almost two decades.

Ever since the 12-strong fleet of MacTours Routemasters was launched in Edinburgh in 2002, the vintage vehicles have become a familiar sight across the city.

The vintage buses have disappeared from the streets of the Capital.

The vintage buses have disappeared from the streets of the Capital.

But now their long years of service have finally ended as they are retired because of changing environmental and disability access standards.

The buses – which originally ran in London – are not destined to the scrapyard in the sky though, and will be preserved for posterity by Lothian Buses.

Starting at Waverley Bridge the open-topped tour allowed passengers to see the highlights of Edinburgh’s Old Town including the Grassmarket, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Scottish Parliament, Surgeons’ Hall and Edinburgh Castle.

Former chemistry teacher Bill Hall, of Longniddry, started out as guide for the MacTours when they first launched.

Mac Bus Tours. Picture: Cate Gillon

Mac Bus Tours. Picture: Cate Gillon

He said: “The Routemasters are unique in Edinburgh. Not only are they vintage buses but they also have a live guide and a conductor.

“When you sit or stand in them they seem to be rattling everywhere, particularly when they stopped. I won’t miss that about them but I am attached to them.”

The 71-year-old has no plans to retire from the job he loves but believes the future of the MacTours may be in doubt following the retirement of the original fleet.

It is understood that the live tour will not continue through the new fleet of vehicles.

“I can say that there will be no more MacTours buses in use,” a spokeswoman for Lothian Buses added.

Ten of the old fleet were split in half and extended – making them the longest Routemasters ever built – with the oldest of these built in 1959.

The move to put them out to pasture comes after Lothian Buses unveiled a new fleet of 30 open-topped double-deckers costing £6.5million which have been specially commissioned to meet environmental standards.

The buses will begin operation in the coming weeks across three of its five routes – Edinburgh Tour, Majestic Tour and City Sightseeing Tour.

Richard Hall, managing director for Lothian Buses, said: “These new vehicles have been designed and built to our exacting specification to ensure that we continue to delight and exceed the expectations of our tour passengers.”

Edinburgh Bus Tours originally started operating MacTours Routemaster buses in 2002.

Until 2011 the MacTours operated all year round but since then have only operated during the summer season from March to October

Lothian Buses was not able to confirm at this stage where the buses would be housed or if they would make even a fleeting return to the streets of Edinburgh.