Lothian Buses' ticket prices are going up. But they're worth every penny – Susan Dalgety
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Inflation is running at around nine per cent and it is three years since the transport company did its last price review. Faced with their own rising costs, transport bosses didn’t have much choice but to agree a price hike, so from next month a single bus ticket will go up by 20p, with a monthly Ridacard costing £66.
I have to declare an interest. The increase won’t have any impact on me, thanks to my pensioner’s bus pass. Nor will it affect my grandchildren who, like every young person under 22, also benefit from free travel.
But even if I was still paying for my regular journeys into the city centre and across town to Musselburgh, I wouldn’t complain about the fares going up. Edinburgh and Lothian have the best bus service in Scotland – and one of the best in the UK. And it is still in public hands, unlike most bus services elsewhere.
When the Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher deregulated bus services in 1986, forcing publicly owned bus companies to operate as commercial enterprises, the then Labour-controlled Lothian Regional Council took the courageous decision to set up a council-owned bus company.
It could have failed, leaving Edinburgh passengers at the mercy of competing private bus companies, just as Glasgow is today. Instead, Lothian Regional Transport Plc prospered and when, in 1996, the Tories again tried to have the company privatised, the city’s councillors were in a strong position to resist the move.
Today, Lothian Buses, as it has been branded since 2000, provides the city with more than 50 services. I can jump on a 26 at Haymarket and travel along the beautiful Firth of Forth coastline to Port Seton – a bargain even at the new single fare of £2. The company is also one of region’s biggest employers, with 2,500 people on its books.
Most of us – myself included – are quick to criticise councils for providing mediocre services, but when it comes to buses, Edinburgh City Council – Lothian Buses’ biggest shareholder, with a 91 per cent of shares – gets it just right. Just don’t mention the trams.