Edinburgh Council 'taking Lothian Buses for granted' as bus station plans put on hold

TRANSPORT bosses have been accused of taking Lothian Buses “for granted” as the company’s plans to take control of the Capital’s bus station have been put “on hold”.

Thursday, 5th September 2019, 7:38 am
The St Andrew Square bus station, Edinburgh

Transport for Edinburgh, the over-arching company behind Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams, has previously tabled proposals to “develop commercial business cases for the operation and management of Edinburgh Bus Station” at St Andrew Square. But the council-owned company’s chief executive, George Lowder, has warned councillors those proposals have been put on the back-burner while the authority brings forward its city centre transformation plans – which are set to overhaul how people move about the Capital.

Mr Lowder said: “The bus station sits there as something on our radar but something that is affected by city centre transformation and the Waverley Station master plan and low emission zones.

“Until there is a higher-level policy decision about the use of the bus station, we have put that on hold.”

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The council’s initial city centre transformation strategy makes little mention of the bus station at St Andrew Square – other than that “the location of the bus station in the long term will also be considered”.

Four public transport interchanges are proposed in the draft strategy – at Picardy Place/St Andrew Square, Haymarket, Tollcross and Potterrow/Nicolson Street – while there could be a “reduction in volume of buses stopping on Princes Street”.

Opposition councillors have called for clarity on the future of the bus station to give Lothian Buses reassurances over their plans.

Conservative transport spokesperson, Cllr Nick Cook, said: “The council’s handing of the city centre transformation is creating huge uncertainty for public transport operators, businesses and Edinburgh’s workers.

“Rather than strive for meaningless plaudits, bus priority and closer working with Lothian Buses should be at the centre of any planned change to city centre travel.

“The council is in danger of taking our award winning bus company for granted. Lothian Buses is a huge local employer and moves millions to and from work each month. It’s importance to Edinburgh’s economy can’t be understated.”

Currently, Lothian Buses do not use the St Andrew Square bus station – but other operators including Borders Buses drop off and pick up passengers from the interchange.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson, Cllr Kevin Lang, said: “The city centre transformation and LEZ projects offer a real positive chance to improve the centre of Edinburgh, making it a far more attractive place to live, shop and visit.

“However, we shouldn’t underestimate the scale of the changes proposed. It shows the need for clarity and clear decisions on both projects so everyone, including bus operators, can plan properly.”

Green councillors have called for the bus station to be upgraded to make public transport a more attractive choice for residents and visitors.

Green transport spokesperson, Cllr Claire Miller, said: “It’s vital that Edinburgh has a modern, high quality bus station for regional and national connections.

“To meet our zero carbon targets, we have to offer good quality public transport – and it has to be a better option than driving a car.”

The city council is set to publish more detailed plans for its city centre transformation later this week.

Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “We are aware of proposals for the bus station in Transport for Edinburgh’s business plan.”