taking cash out of Lothian Buses is never popular.
Using the money to pay for an extension to the city’s tram line takes you to a whole new level of antagonism. A lot of people would rather see Donald Trump take over at the City Chambers than that.
With an election on the horizon, you would expect to see most politicians running a mile from the idea. So why are our city councillors prepared to back this most umpromising of horses?
Well, there are two versions of that answer, depending on your view point. Either they are hell-bent on delivering their vanity project and willing to take any risks necessary to make it happen. Alternatively, they are confident of the benefits that the tram can bring once it connects the most heavily populated part of the city with its biggest centres of employment in the west.
There is always a natural nervousness whenever Lothian Buses is seen to be at risk. The company has grown, under the ownership of our local councils, into one of the best public transport companies in Britain. Spend a little time in almost any other UK city and you will likely come back with a deeper appreciation of what passengers get in Edinburgh.
It makes sense to have one over-arching company overseeing our various forms of public transport, ensuring they work together rather than compete. There is nothing wrong with taking profits from the most profitable routes to invest in improving services elsewhere. It is only controversial in this case because the money is going from one form of transport, buses, to another, the trams.
There is nothing wrong with that as long as bus services don’t suffer. They haven’t so far since the launch of the trams three years ago.
Ultimately, it comes down to a question of trust, whether or not we can rely on councillors to continue what has been a sound stewardship of Lothian Buses.