Calls for Edinburgh to 'take back control' of Lothian buses with London-style direct control from council
Councillor Kevin Lang said without public transport improvement, a congestion charge could be "all stick and no carrot".
Plans for a congestion charge could become “all stick and no carrot” for Capital residents if radical improvements to public transport are not put in place, a councillor has warned.
After renewed calls for a "fresh look" at the introduction of a congestion charge in the city, Liberal Democrat councillor Kevin Lang called on Edinburgh City Council to “take back control” of bus services in a bid to improve journey times and congestion.
Cllr Lang called for London-style direct control over the buses and more direct control from the council via Transport for Edinburgh or risk the congestion charge not reducing the number of people using a private car.
Currently, Lothian operates as an arms-length commercial company under the Transport for Edinburgh umbrella, with all operational decisions made by the bus company instead of the council.
He said: “Without big improvements to public transport, a congestion charge risks being all stick and no carrot.
“If the Council is to charge for private car use then there must be better bus services provided as an alternative, especially outwith the core city centre. It is why the Council needs more powers and more direct control over routes and ticket costs.”
'Bus services should be viewed as a public service'
Cllr Lang added giving the council more control over the bus services would improve services and allow it to be used as a public service rather than a commercial operation.
He said: “Instead, we have a confusing half way house where the Council owns Lothian Buses but has no real power to decide where buses go, how often they run or how much is charged.
“Compare this to London where the public authority decides on bus routes, frequency and fares. That system was in place long before the congestion charge was introduced there. It recognises the fact that bus services should be viewed, first and foremost, as a public service and not just a commercial operation.”
“It is high time Edinburgh was given the same powers as London so we can properly take back control of our public transport system”.
Karen Doran, vice convener of the Transport and Environment Committee, referenced the upcoming City Mobility Plan which will likely propose radical changes to public and private transport in the city.
However she avoided responding to the calls from Cllr Lang and did not comment on the possibility of more council control over Lothian buses.
She said: “We’re publishing an ambitious new plan to further improve sustainable transport in the city to be considered at Committee in January.
“Our City Mobility Plan will propose changes in the way people move around the city.
“In the New Year elected members and the wider public will be given the opportunity to comment on proposals which we believe are right for the city and will help Edinburgh meet it’s target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.”
Lothian was contacted for comment.