Edinburgh's bus wars 'not sustainable' in long term

THE boss of First Bus has warned the cost of the bus wars which has broken out in is not sustainable in the long term.

Thursday, 23rd May 2019, 3:46 pm
Andrew Jarvis

Confirming his company’s plans to launch a new open-top bus tour operation, in direct competition with Lothian Buses, Andrew Jarvis said he was sure the Capital’s booming tourism market could support more than one operator.

But he made clear the wider battle - which has seen the two companies encroach on each other’s traditional territory - could not go on indefinitely.

First Bus plans to launch its hop-on-hop-off open-top bus tours on July 1, under-cutting the £16 day ticket offered by Lothian Buses.

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Mr Jarvis, managing director of First Bus in Scotland, said: “Both in overall look and feel ours will be quite different - and quite a different set of price points as well.

“The growth in the tourism market in Edinburgh hasn’t gone unnoticed so we’ve decided to launch a new operation.”

Lothian runs three distinct tours. Mr Jarvis said: “We will just be concentrating on one route that takes in all the main tourist attractions.”

He said First Bus had acquired 14 buses for the all-year-round operation. “They’ve nearly all been retro-fitted with updated Euro 4 engines to keep emissions as low as we can for a start-up business. but the vast majority can be upgraded to full Euro 6 compliance for the Low Emission Zone.”

Last summer council-owned Lothian Buses launched new Lothiancountry routes in West Lothian, traditionally First Bus territory. In March, Mr Jarvis retaliated with plans for new services into Edinburgh. And this week Lothian announced new express coach routes from West Lothian to the Capital.

It is seen as an echo of the bus wars which raged between the two companies for 18 months around 2001 - before Mr Jarvis was involved in the industry in Scotland.

He said: “It’s a deregulated market - operators can operate wherever they choose so long as they operate reliably.

“It’s good for the passenger because they are getting a lot more choice of service. Whether it’s sustainable in the long term - I do have my thoughts on that.

“How sustainable is it for two large businesses to sustain ongoing losses? Two big businesses can afford to do it for a period of time.

“In terms of the new operation - any start up business is going to incur initial losses. We’re spending money on refurbishing vehicles and we’ve got no revenue to pay for it.”

But he insisted: “I’m more than confident the Edinburgh tourism market can cope with more than one operator operating services, absolutely convinced.”