Lothian Buses suspend all Edinburgh evening services tonight after months of antisocial behaviour
Lothian Buses has taken the decision to suspend all evening services across Edinburgh after months of antisocial behaviour incidents.
The company says all journeys across the city due to depart terminal points after 7.30pm – including services operating on Lothian Buses, Lothian Country and East Coast Buses – will not operate on Wednesday night. This applies to evening services only - night bus services are expected to operate as normal.
It comes after eight buses serving the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary were targeted by vandals on Monday night in Old Dalkeith Road or Gilmerton Road, between 7.25pm and 8.50pm, which resulted in the removal of services on these routes.
Lothian says that services are expected to return as scheduled on Thursday – but all services will be under review and the company will take a zero tolerance approach by removing buses from any area as soon as there is an incident there.
Sarah Boyd, Lothian’s operations director, said: “It is with pride that Lothian serves at the heart of our local communities and after the challenges of the last year it’s frankly appalling that the actions of a few can directly impact on so many. However, driver and customer safety is our absolute priority and so it is with deep regret that we have to take this action.
“We understand that we provide a critical service for key workers and those for whom travel is essential and we can only apologise to these customers who we know will be inconvenienced by this decision.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Police Scotland for all their efforts in helping us to maintain service this far. I would also like to thank our customers and all of our colleagues for their continued support and patience.
“We would urge anyone with any information relating to these incidents to come forward to ensure those responsible are held accountable for their actions.”
Lyn Turner, Unite regional industrial officer, said: “Our members have the right to work without fear and we stand by Lothian’s decision to withdraw services from areas in which they cannot operate safely. The safety of our members is paramount.
“We would urge communities to come together and provide information on those responsible for these dangerous acts of criminal behaviour which are putting the safety of our members and that of the public at serious risk.”
Chief Inspector Sarah Taylor, local area commander for north-west Edinburgh, said a number of buses had large stones thrown at windows on Monday and she described it as “senseless behaviour” that could lead to serious injury or even death.
Chief Insp Taylor said police have been working with Lothian Buses to tackle the surge in antisocial behaviour in the past three weeks through Operation Proust.
Officers have been patrolling on buses, in vehicles, and on foot in areas affected and have so far identified and charged 18 young people.
Police have also engaged with more than 140 young people to ensure relevant safety and prevention messaging is delivered.
Other measures have included visits to parents of youths identified as being involved and warning letters issued.
Last weekend, Lothian suspended evening services in Clermiston following the assault of a bus driver in the Drum Brae Drive area. Police later confirmed that a 14-year-old boy was charged in connection with the assault.
Other incidents have included a bus driver being injured in Niddrie when the front window was smashed.
On Tuesday, one Lothian employee told the Edinburgh Evening News that drivers are “genuinely scared” about driving at night just now as it is happening on “almost a nightly basis.”
The employee fears there is potential for rolling closures of ‘no go’ areas across the city as the scale and frequency of vandalism is something “we have never seen before.”
Edinburgh City Council’s transport convener, Lesley Macinnes, said: “Like everyone who’s seen coverage of the horrendous attacks on our bus services in recent days I’ve been utterly appalled by the reckless and intimidating behaviour of those behind the assaults. Enough is enough, it has to stop.
“I’m completely behind Lothian’s decision to withdraw bus services tonight as a clear message that this criminal targeting of a vital public service will not be tolerated. Anyone out there who thinks they know someone who’s involved in this despicable campaign of antisocial behaviour needs to do the right thing and report it to police right away.”
Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Alex Rowley said: “It is both shocking and unacceptable that our bus drivers and passengers have to deal with anti-social behaviour on public transport.
“Many workers will rely on these services in the evenings, especially those who work shifts, so it is a sign of just how serious the problem is that Lothian Buses have been forced to take this step.
"We don’t know how long this situation will continue. However, if it is to be a long-term stoppage of buses after 7.30pm then there must be suitable alternatives in place for key workers who rely on public transport to get home. Many other employers will also need to ensure staff have safe ways to travel home from work in the meantime,
“Scottish Labour is urging the Transport and Justice secretaries to work with the authorities and the company to find a way to get these services back and running in a safe manner. We must not – under any circumstances – give in to thugs.”
NHS Lothian said on Wednesday afternoon it will provide taxis for any impacted staff who are unable to travel to or from work by alternative public transport or private vehicle.
Staff requiring a taxi are urged to contact their line manager for details.
The health board is also asking staff not to car share and to keep observing Covid-19 restrictions.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We deplore the recent anti-social behaviour which has resulted in two bus drivers receiving injuries in recent weeks. These attacks on key workers are unacceptable and threaten the essential services on which communities rely.
“We know that Lothian Buses have not taken this decision lightly. Once it became apparent the suspension was unavoidable, Lothian Buses gave notice to health boards and other affected employers and we are aware that NHS Lothian is organising alternative transport for affected staff.
“Lothian Buses is working closely with Police Scotland, trade unions and local authorities to tackle this issue and keep their staff and passengers free from harm. All partners are committed to tackling anti-social behaviour and are working to keep our communities safe. Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Scotland by dialling 101.”
The Scottish Government is continuing to seek assurances that appropriate arrangements for key workers are in place, should Lothian Buses take the decision to temporarily suspend additional evening services.