London style 'hopper' fare suggested to ease Edinburgh's Festival traffic congestion

Removing cars from the city centre, a London-style “hopper” fare, and dedicated bus lanes from the suburbs have all been suggested as potential solutions to the Capital’s congestion woes.

Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 10:11 am
Festival congestion on Princes Street. Picture: TSPL

It follows Lothian buses’ admission to the Evening News that bus schedules were “impossible” to meet during the festival period after a bus users group branded the congestion the “worst ever”.

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Now councillors have called for the introduction of a London-style “hopper” fare where users pay a set fare for unlimited journeys within an hour.

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Festival congestion on Princes Street. Picture: TSPL

Other suggestions include fewer buses driving through Princes Street and dedicated bus lanes from the suburbs direct into the heart of Edinburgh, suggested by former Lord Provost and current SNP councillor Frank Ross.

Green councillor Claire Miller called on a significant reduction of the number of cars in the city centre to incentivise walking and cycling.

But Tory leader Cllr Iain Whyte said: “Most issues for the centre of the city are around congestion of buses and how they get in and out.

“The council talks to Lothian Buses about congestion but doesn’t seem to take any steps.

“Buses are diverted but that just shows far from solving the problem, it seems the council ensures it simply makes it harder for bus passengers and bus operators when they should be making it easier for people to leave the car at home.

“We’ve had money in Conservative budgets in the last couple of years seeking to look at the traffic light system and junctions going out and in to the city to give more bus priority at these junctions to reduce congestion for those buses.” Issues around congestion have come to a head as Edinburgh City Council continues to look at the options for public transport in the city centre, where the bulk of the congestion exists.

Strain in the relationship between the council and Lothian buses has also increased, with two Labour councillors calling on the company to allow council representatives to sit on its board with voting rights.

The public consultation around the City Centre Transformation Plan recently closed, which included several potential solutions to reduce congestion.

As part of the plans, several major bus routes would see significant changes and a free hopper service connecting public transport hubs at North Bridge, Potterrow, Haymarket and south of Lothian Road.

The council will also consult later this year on the re-introduction of all-day bus lanes and a potential rationalisation, or reduction, in bus stops to improve congestion.

A Workplace Parking Levy, if introduced, is also seen as a way of reducing the number of cars on the road and therefore the potential for traffic build-up.

Transport vice convener Karen Doran said the council recognises the role of buses and that they are working hard to increase their usage by providing a reliable journey time.

She said: “Our vision is for a truly integrated, accessible and reliable public transport system fit for a growing population, and we’re committed to delivering a range of measures to deliver this.

“We can only make a difference in partnership with bus companies, and we will continue to work with them to explore ways of better routing and integrating services to reduce congestion and journey times.”

Green councillor Claire Miller said there are “far too many” vehicles on the roads and added that demand must be reduced to allow people to switch to walking, cycling, or public transport.

Labour councillor Scott Arthur added: “We should also move towards the full integration of Transport for Edinburgh. I think there is a bit of friction between them. They are all the same company but you can’t switch between the tram, the bikes and the bus.

“Lothian buses still have work to do to make the buses more inclusive. There is more we can do to get families and people with disabilities out of cars and onto buses.”[email protected]