Lothian Buses take £50k a year in foreign coins

Sneak use of euros and the like cost Lothian Buses �50,000 last year. Picture: Justin Spittle
Sneak use of euros and the like cost Lothian Buses �50,000 last year. Picture: Justin Spittle
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EDINBURGH bus drivers end up collecting more than £130 every day in foreign and counterfeit coins, it emerged today.

Passengers who successfully sneak the currency into their handful of change cost the council-owned Lothian Buses almost £50,000 last year.

The amount lost is offset by other honest passengers who overpay on the exact-fare only buses, but that still leaves a deficit of £21,384.

For a bus company with two million passengers a week, however, it is not likely to impact the balance sheet.

Transport consultant Robert Drysdale said nonetheless that the issue explained why many bus operators were trying to get rid of cash transactions altogether.

He said: “The principle of not giving change is a good one and it’s a balancing act of running an efficient service while having to put up with people who will chuck in coins 
that are not the right denomination.

“The only way to tackle it would be to have ticket machines on the streets and buses which don’t take change at all, but the investment to do that would be considerable.”

Many operators see exact fares as a way of reducing assaults against drivers, by letting them sit behind safety screens so there is also no way for drivers and passengers to exchange money directly.

Transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said drivers were trained to check fares but could not be blamed if people were determined to flout the rules by using counterfeit or foreign coins.

She said: “It sounds like a lot of money but, in the grand scheme of things, it is probably a very small fraction of what they take.”

It is understood that all foreign cash received is eventually given to charity while the counterfeit coins are disposed of so they cannot be used again.

New figures also showed today that the amount of overpayments received by Lothian Buses has dramatically reduced to just £26,188 following the move last year to a £1.50 fare.

The company raked in £194,035 more than the value of ticket sales in 2012 - when the fare was the slightly more difficult to find £1.40 – and £140,882 the year before when it was £1.30.

It is not known how many foreign and counterfeit coins were collected in those two years.

Earlier this month, the News revealed the new “citysmart” card for Capital commuters which can be used on Lothian Buses and the Edinburgh Trams.

Dubbed an “Oystercard for Edinburgh”, the ID imitates the electronic ticketing used across nearly all public transport links in Greater 
London.

A spokesman for Lothian Buses said the new card was one of the ways it was looking at to reduce how much cash was used on its routes.

He said: “The exact fare system has worked well for a very long time but we are keen to develop new methods of payment.

“With the introduction of m-ticketing and citysmart, we are offering attractive alternative ways of paying in order to reduce the volume of cash taken on our buses.”

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com