LOTHIAN buses has announced new express services between West Lothian and Edinburgh in an escalation of the “bus wars” the company is fighting with rivals FirstBus.
Lothian has bought eight new custom-built coaches to operate the direct routes from Bathgate and Linlithgow into the Capital, aimed at commuters.
And it plans to launch the new services – under the name Green Arrow and run by the company’s Lothiancountry arm – on Sunday, June 30. No announcement has yet been made on fares.
Lothian launched new Lothiancountry routes in West Lothian last summer, mirroring existing routes connecting West Lothian and the Capital.
Then in March this year, First announced plans to retaliate by increasing its services and introducing some in Edinburgh.
The battle is an echo of the bus wars which raged between council-owned Lothian Buses and First Edinburgh for 18 months around 2001 and led to fare cuts, rival buses fighting for passengers on the busiest routes and large financial losses for both companies.
Lothian said the new Green Arrow services would have a bespoke and dedicated team of drivers.
The new Ex1 service will follow a route from Bathgate town centre, Boghall, then direct via the M8, and A8 Glasgow Road to Haymarket and The Exchange.
The Ex2 will go from Linlithgow Bridge, Linlithgow town centre, Springfield, then direct via the M9, A8 Glasgow Road, Haymarket and The Exchange
Both will run every 30 minutes, Monday to Saturday and hourly on a Sunday. Journey times on both routes are estimated at 45-50 minutes.
The fleet of eight coaches have been built in the UK by Plaxton, part of Alexander Dennis Limited.
They include a forward-facing wheelchair bay and have been fitted with full coach seating, Wi-Fi, USB charging, mood lighting and audio-visual stop announcements.
Nigel Serafini, Lothian’s commercial director, said: “We are fully committed to investing in and developing the public transport offering in West Lothian and building new connections within the area and into Edinburgh.
“We want to promote bus travel as a great solution to both sustainable and active travel, encouraging people out of cars and onto public transport, thus reducing congestion and even more importantly improving air quality and the impact on climate change.
“We continue to see significant growth across our network in West Lothian since its launch in August last year and the introduction of these direct express coach services from Linlithgow and Bathgate will considerably enhance the offering for these communities and the greener options available for travel.”
Lothiancountry is holding roadshows in Linlithgow on Saturday, June 15 and Bathgate on Saturday, June 22 to promote the new services.
FirstBus declined to comment on another operator’s commercial decisions.