THE fares rise announced today by Lothian Buses is bound to prove contentious among many passengers.
Not because of the extra cost they are facing. Many won’t pay any more at all because they use weekly or monthly passes which are not affected by the increase. A ten pence rise in the basic fare after three years can be hardly be described as excessive. How many of our daily essentials haven’t risen by that much or more in that time?
The controversy of course stems from the fact that the bus company is set to pay out a £20 million dividend to fund preparatory work for an extension of the city’s tram line. The strength and vitality of Lothian Buses was always one of the concerns of tram critics who feared the cost of the project would prove a damaging drain on the excellent bus services we currently enjoy. Those worries were expressed in a fairly forthright way yesterday by Midlothian Council chief executive Kenneth Lawrie, who fears that bus passengers in his county will suffer in order to pay for the trams in Edinburgh.
The belief of this newspaper is that extending the existing tram line is the best thing for the Capital and the rest of the region. The longer line will help keep the city moving as it grows, improve our environment and boost the regeneration of some of our poorest neighbourhoods – all things which benefit everyone living and working in and around the city, either directly or indirectly.
We don’t believe the buses should suffer as a result. Trams and buses should work together to create one seamless transport system. Within that, it is reasonable to expect buses to remain clean, efficient, frequent and good value for money. It is too early to make a final judgement, but today’s evidence suggests the buses can actually improve alongside the trams. And a £1.60 single fare remains good value compared to buses in Scotland’s other cities.