Edinburgh City Centre Transformation: Free hopper bus 'could threaten viability of Lothian Buses'

A free hopper bus in Manchester
A free hopper bus in Manchester
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BUS chiefs have warned that proposals to reduce the number of bus stops in the Capital could "impact on service provision" and have raised concerns that a free hopper bus may threaten the "viability" of the company.

The city council has published a £314m final strategy for its 10-year city centre transformation project - which could see bus stops "rationalised" in an attempt to speed up journey times.

But Lothian Buses, in a formal consultation response to the city council, has told transport chiefs that the bus stop proposals aimed at reducing congestion "would impact on service provision and put greater pressure on remaining stops".

A report to councillors added: ""Lothian Buses also acknowledge that restricting general traffic at Bank Street would prioritise bus movement, however, measures elsewhere could displace traffic, congesting bus routes. Some street closures may affect service routes and resilience."

Lothian has also warned that a proposed city centre hopper bus, set to be rolled out in 2023, "could take paying customers from the commercial network, thereby affecting viability".

City centre Conservative Cllr Joanna Mowat, said: "My priority is the buses must get through.

READ MORE: These are the £314m plans to overhaul Edinburgh's city centre roads

"Even in the report, they are saying the bus stop rationalisation they don't think will deliver that much more capacity."

She added: "It's completely incoherent in here about the city centre hopper bus.

"If we have fully integrated ticketing, which for some reason isn't scheduled until 2025 or 2026 despite the fact everyone wants it, surely we won't need to have a free city centre hopper service if people can hop on and off regular services."

The final strategy, to be considered by the council's transport and environment committee on Thursday, adds: "Journey times could be improved by extending hours of bus-lane operation and bus-stop rationalisation. The latter could ease overcrowded footways but the spacing of stops should not disadvantage those with mobility impairments."

Bus chiefs said they are keen to work with council bosses to iron out any potential problems.

READ MORE: Edinburgh city centre's £314m transformation plans: Everything you need to know

Nigel Serafini, Lothian’s commercial director said: “Lothian welcomes the council’s commitment to improving both the public realm and the environment within Edinburgh city centre.

"We are committed to working in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council and have provided a full response through the consultation process which recognises the potential impact these proposals may have on our current operations and finances.”

Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “We want to prioritise walking, cycling and public transport, and these measures aim to reduce congestion, speed up bus journeys and improve passenger transport across the city centre rather than reducing it. This reimagining of the bus network aims to enhance services travelling to the edge of the centre while protecting key cross-city routes, changes which are imperative if we are to improve journey times and avoid peak season delays we saw this summer.

“As part of this our review of bus stop locations, which won’t have a significant impact on the city centre, will focus on the most congested locations, freeing up space for passengers to board. Alongside this, proposals to introduce a hopper bus will benefit people with mobility issues and residents in the city centre, as well as reducing congestion, complementing existing bus services rather than competing with them.”