Lothian Buses biggest problem? Political interference by Edinburgh Council – John McLellan
Such is the deepening unease at political interference in Lothian Buses that whistle-blowers are beginning to make their views known, and I’ve had two unsolicited approaches in the past fortnight.
Information has emerged about the risk register the company has refused to release despite a freedom of information request, and it shouldn’t be regarded as particularly revelatory that the dangers regarded as the most serious for the company’s long-term profitability and sustainability all relate to council policy.
Of particular concern is the council’s determination to keep all traffic off Waverley Bridge, the main pick-up for the lucrative tour bus business, and to reduce the number of cross-city services.
The council vision is for far fewer buses on Princes Street and for services to hairpin back from the city centre to break east-west and north-south journeys in the middle, so the effect on efficiency should be obvious.
Then there is the dream of electric buses, already known to be twice as costly as Euro 6-compliant diesel vehicles.
The bus company is just expected to make these policies work and get back to producing a hefty dividend to swell the council piggy-bank once the Covid recovery is complete, but the uncomfortable truth is it can’t have both.
And as an additional slap in the face, with one line to run the tram boss Lea Harrison picked up a £16k bonus to take his pay last year to £166,560, nearly £40,000 more than the bus company’s interim MD who is responsible for a Lothian-wide network. Says it all.