Edinburgh buses: Council awards contracts for new subsidised routes, including Ratho

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New subsidised bus services are set to be approved for communities in rural west Edinburgh in a bid to establish reliable public transport links.

Residents in Ratho have been campaigning for years for better bus services. At one point the buses were so unreliable that commuters heading to Edinburgh were left to walk over a mile in the dark to catch a bus when their normal service did not turn up.

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The three existing bus services operating in the west of the city which are fully financially supported by the city council - services 20, 63 and 68, all operated by McGill’s Bus Services - are due to be withdrawn on July 14.  

And the council’s transport and environment committee is being asked to approve five new routes:

* The Gyle to Hermiston park and ride via Ratho

* Queensferry to The Gyle

* Cramond to Balerno

* Wester Hailes to Chesser

* The Gyle to Clermiston 

Four of the new routes will be run by Lothian Buses, with the The Gyle to Clermiston service being run by Handicabs Lothian. 

The council said that before the revised contracts went out for tender, local communities and bus operators were consulted in an effort to help develop the route specifications and balance community requirements within the available budget. 

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It said the proposed new services would improve bus provision in the west of the city, with some of the routes amended and a new connection to Cramond being provided through money from developers building new housing in the area. 

Council transport convener Scott Arthur hailed the new routes as “a big step forward” for the communities involved.

He said: “This is fantastic news for residents in the west of the city as it’s really important to make sure the areas they live in are connected with the rest of Edinburgh. There are some parts of the city that are just not well-connected which is why these supported bus services are so important.”

He acknowledged some residents in Ratho might be disappointed there was no direct bus service to the city centre. A direct service was tendered, but proved just beyond the available budget. But the new hourly service linking The Gyle with Hemiston park and ride via Ratho Station and Ratho gives the option of linking with the tram at The Gyle or bus services at Hermiston, as well as links to bus routes from Hermiston to West Lothian.

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Cllr Arthur said: “It’s worth remembering what people in Ratho have been through over the last couple of years, so their frustrations are understandable - they had threats of services being completely lost; at one pint, buses were just not turning up; but now they’re being connected into the city by one of the UK’s best bus companies.”

If the proposals are approved on Thursday, the council said it would immediately move to award the contracts so the new services can be registered with the Traffic Commissioner and be ready to operate as soon as McGill’s services stop. The proposed contract lengths are for two years, with two one-year optional extensions.

The council also said it would work with the new operators to update all available passenger information on each route and keep community groups updated on the changes to services in their area.  

Once the west Edinburgh contracts have been awarded, the focus will turn to the new services planned for Lady Nairne and Dumbiedykes, where communities have also been campaigning for better bus links.

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