Edinburgh's bus wars: challenger offers cheaper open-top tours

EDINBURGH’S bus wars are  set to become a battle over ticket prices as private operator First Bus charges £10 a head for its new open-top tours, undercutting Lothian Buses by £6.

Tuesday, 28th May 2019, 2:33 pm
First Bus are understood to be planning a similar route to Lothian's City Sightseeing tour

The Evening News understands buses will leave every seven minutes from Waverley Bridge when the new service starts in just over four weeks time.

First Bus announced last week it was planning to run hop-on hop-off open-top tours in direct competition with Lothian Buses from July 1.

Now the News has been told First will charge £10 a head for tickets compared with Lothian’s price of £16.

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It is the latest move in a battle between First and council-owned Lothian which has seen the two companies encroaching on each other’s traditional territory.

Andrew Jarvis, managing director of First Bus in Scotland, defended the launch, claiming Edinburgh’s growing tourism market was big enough to support more than one operator. He said at the time: “Both in overall look and feel ours will be quite different - and quite a different set of price points as well.”

Lothian, operating under the name Edinburgh Bus Tours, currently offers three distinct hop-on hop-off open-top routes and a fourth which takes in the Forth bridges and a boat trip.

Mr Jarvis made clear First would be concentrating on a single route taking in the main tourist attractions.

Now the Evening News has been told First is set to follow the same basic route as Lothian’s “City Sightseeing” option which goes from Waverley Bridge along Princes Street, Lothian Road, Grassmarket, Lauriston Place, Johnston Terrace, Lawnmarket, George IV Bridge, Chambers Street, South Bridge, Royal Mile, Abbeyhill and Regent Road.

Lothian’s “City Sightseeing” tickets, valid for 24 hours, cost £16 for adults, £15 for seniors, £8 for children or £39 for a family ticket covering two adults and up to three children.

The Evening News understands First’s equivalent ticket will cost £10 ticket, but it was not clear what discounts might be available.

The News has also been told the new service will operate every seven minutes.

Lothian advertises its buses as running “at least every 10 minutes” between 9am and 5.20pm and “at least every 12 minutes” from 5.20pm until 7pm during the summer (June-August). In April-May and September-October, the frequency is at least every 12 minutes between 9am and 5pm and every 20 minutes from 5.20pm until 7pm. And in November-March it is every 20 minutes, 9am-5pm.

First Bus has said it will publish details of the new service shortly before the launch.

Mr Jarvis said: “We have registered a frequent service taking in the main attractions of the city and we are working hard to provide a competitive and unique offering for visitors to Edinburgh. We are still finalising our fares at the moment, so any speculation on the pricing point is exactly that at this stage.”