Fears Edinburgh bus fare rise to fund tram extension

Lothian Buses is raising the price of its single fare. Picture: JANE BARLOW
Lothian Buses is raising the price of its single fare. Picture: JANE BARLOW
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BUS fares across Edinburgh are to rise amid controversy over a mooted £20 million payout to fund tram works.

Adult and child single tickets will each increase by 10p to £1.60 and 80p respectively from April 10, but other fares will remain the same.

Lothian Buses pointed out that the fare rise was the first in three years and would pay for a raft of improvements to services, as well as more drivers.

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But questions have been raised over whether passengers will be asked to help fund plans for a £20m extraordinary dividend from Lothian Buses towards a potential extension of the tram line to Newhaven.

The News told yesterday how Midlothian Council chief executive Kenneth Lawrie had expressed concerns over the tram funding plans in a letter to Lothian Buses general manager Jim McFarlane.

And today Councillor Nick Cook, Tory transport spokesman, said customers would need “absolute clarity” as to the reasons behind the price hike.

He said: “Whilst price increases are sometimes necessary, it should never be done lightly. Lothian Buses need to make clear if prices are going up, why they are going up.”

Transport bosses insisted 75 per cent of passengers would remain unaffected by the move, including regular travellers using the Ridacard season ticket.

Fares for Daytickets will also remain the same, as will NightBus, Day&Night tickets and Airlink services. The shake-up will see more buses brought in, as well as jobs for 40 new drivers and ten apprentice engineers.

Service 24, which links the Western General and Royal Infirmary, will see its daytime frequency increased by 50 per cent from every 30 minutes to every 20 from Monday to Friday.

Meanwhile, Sunday services on five routes – 1, 7, 14, 19 and 34 – will now run every 20 minutes instead of 30.

Bosses said services 7, 11, 19, 24, 27, 30, 31 and 35 will offer passengers more seats at peak times, while service 49 will operate a revised weekday timetable – with journeys that currently terminate at Sheriffhall park and ride now extended to Dalkeith Campus. NightBus services are also affected, with the frequency of service N25 doubling to every 30 minutes.

Bus stops in Princes Street will be reshuffled with the aim of reducing delays and speeding up journey times.

Mr McFarlane said: “The changes we have made are a direct response to feedback from our customers and we’re in a position to introduce them thanks to continued strong business performance over many years.

“As one of Edinburgh’s largest employers we are delighted to have the opportunity to add to our team. We are also pleased that Lothian Buses will be able to benefit the city’s environment with further investment in low emission vehicles.”

The Greens said the fare hike was an acceptable trade-off for better services and investment in the bus fleet.

Councillor Nigel Bagshaw, Green transport spokesman, said: “Obviously I’d prefer if fares stayed the same for as long as possible.

“However, if the trade-off is for increased services, particularly on Sundays, and ongoing improvements to the bus fleet, then I’m sure the travelling public will accept the case.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com