Passenger numbers on Lothian Buses increase by two million

Lothian Buses has recorded record passenger figures. Picture: Jane Barlow

Lothian Buses has recorded record passenger figures. Picture: Jane Barlow

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MORE than 121 million passengers travelled on Lothian Buses last year – an increase of two million on the year before.

New figures show the publicly-owned firm bucked country-wide trends illustrating a dip in the number of people taking bus journeys.

Lothian Buses chairman Jim McFarlane. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Lothian Buses chairman Jim McFarlane. Picture: Ian Georgeson

But its annual report also shows a fall in profit of £1.8 million between 2014 and last year – despite overall revenue rising from £135m to £142m.

The company invested £7.6m in 20 new low emission diesel-electric hybrid buses and 12 new “Euro 6” low emission vehicles, the latter specifically for its Airlink Edinburgh Airport service.

Jim McFarlane, chair of Lothian Buses, praised staff for delivering “one of the best bus services in the UK year after year”.

He said: “The accounts show that we continue to buck the national trend, once again increasing our passenger numbers and revenue on the strength of the safe, reliable, efficient and highly regarded service that we provide.

“Our strong performance and effective management of cost pressures also mean that we can again return a £5.5m dividend to the shareholders while also investing more in the next generation of environmentally friendly buses as we aim to reduce our carbon footprint further and improve local air quality.

“I must commend the whole team, including our drivers, engineers and management, who continue to deliver one of the best bus services in the UK year after year.”

Last year a damaging boardroom row led to the departure of a host of top officials from Lothian Buses – including controversial boss Ian Craig.

The dispute centred on a formal grievance lodged against Mr Craig by colleagues, amid claims he undermined senior staff and failed to consult on major decisions.

New heads were appointed over the winter to take the city’s transport sector forward following the period of upheaval.

George Lowder MBE, a decorated army commander, replaced Mr Craig as chief executive of umbrella body Transport for Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, Richard Hall, who previously worked on transport during the London Olympics, secured the managing director role at Lothian Buses – a position also once held by Mr Craig.

And Lea Harrison, who started his career in the Royal Corps of Transport, became the new general manager of Edinburgh Trams following the departure of previous boss Tom Norris.

All three men started work earlier this year and are entitled to hefty six-figure pay packets.

Official government figures show bus passenger numbers across Scotland have fallen from 425 million in 2013/14 to 420 million in 2014/15.

Mr Hall said: “This is a business that has a long track record of delivering high quality services on a foundation of continuing investment and innovation.

“We need to go forward with this model to maintain our position as one of the country’s leading bus operators.

“This is important not only for the thousands of customers who use Lothian Buses’ network of services every day but also for the city as a whole.

“Our services are essential for the health of both Scotland and Edinburgh’s wider economy.”