Edinburgh Council's transport director 'not particularly happy' with Lothian Buses' response to Royal Mile re-routing

BUSES chiefs have been blasted by a top council director for not pulling their weight in attempting to ensure that Old Town residents are not isolated when the Royal Mile is closed to traffic.

Wednesday, 16th October 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th October 2019, 7:31 am

Edinburgh City Council’s executive director of place told councillors on the authority’s transport and environment committee that he was “not particularly happy” with Lothian Buses, which is owned by the council, and its response to making sure that residents are not impacted by changes to the number 35 service.

As part of the authority’s Summertime Streets project during August, part of the Royal Mile was closed as well as other roads in the Old Town to ensure public safety. This led to Lothian re-routing the 35 service around Calton Hill instead of up the Royal Mile – impacting Canongate residents.

Green city centre ward Cllr Claire Miller has now called for different measures, including a potential hopper bus service, to be trialled during future closures of the Royal Mile, such as the monthly Open Streets events where the majority of the historic route is closed on a Sunday afternoon.

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The 35 service bus is re-routed by Lothian when the Royal Mile is closed to traffic Picture: Lisa Ferguson / JPI Media

She said: “The 35 is a really important bus service for people in the Canongate area to be able to travel uphill. I wonder if we are able to explore whether any of the city centre transformation interventions or concepts could be brought in on a test or trial basis to see what mobility solutions we could implement for people who live in that area.

“At the moment, they are seeing some of the Open Streets initiatives as being a step ahead of the solutions for those residents.

“I’m thinking in particular about any transport that provides a little hopper service that routes round that old Town area. The linkages form the bottom of the hill to the top of the hill is a particular concern.”

Council officials said that “discussions are ongoing” regarding “alternative green travel options including use of e-trikes to assist movement around the area and to nearby bus routes” when the Royal Mile is closed for the Open Streets. But the council’s executive director of place, Paul Lawrence, called on Lothian Buses to play its part in ensuring residents can still move about the city effectively when the route is closed. During the Summertime Streets, the council offered a free taxi service to allow vulnerable residents to get to bus stops for the 35 service.

He said: “We have not been particularly happy with the response we have had from colleagues at Lothian Buses and we continue to press them to try and achieve a better outcome on that. It’s one we know that there is unhappiness about.

“We think we can find a better solution to it – but we need to keep the dialogue going and I will personally commit that we will continue to have that debate because we know it’s not a satisfactory position.”

City centre Tory Cllr Joanna Mowat, who has also raised concerns previously about the impact the Summertime Streets project had on Old Town traders, echoed the calls for more to be done for bus users.

She said: “Disenfranchising a community from its bus service when it’s its only bus service and they are people that overwhelmingly rely on the bus service, is going to be a challenge.

“There is going to have to be a decision about how we take that forward.”

A full report on the key findings and impacts of the open Streets project will be presented to councillors in May 2020.

Lothian Buses declined to comment.

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