Return of the bus wars as First hits back at Lothian expansion in West Lothian

Lothian introduced the X38 in October, but First have now rebranded to compete

Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 3:42 pm

The battle for supremacy between two warring bus operators has stepped up a notch as First West Lothian hit back at Lothian buses' expansion into the region.

In November, Lothian Country, the West Lothian expansion of Lothian buses, launched their X38 service running from Linlithgow into the Capital.

Launched to directly compete with First's own 38 service running the same route, First have hit back, rebranding their route X38 to match Lothian Country.Commercial director for First West Lothian, Graeme Macfarlan, said the service had operated for decades prior to Lothian's arrival.

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First and Lothian are battling for supremacy in West Lothian

He added that changing the service number to add an X was "standard practice".

Mr Macfarlan said: “Firstly, our service 38 has operated between Stirling and Edinburgh via Linlithgow for decades prior to the recent arrival of Lothian Country on the same corridor.

“We review our network regularly to ensure the services that we operate cover their operating costs, while also meeting the ever-changing needs of our passengers. It is important to note that all of the services that we operate between West Lothian and Edinburgh city centre have limited stopping patterns in operation.

“We have therefore prefixed our existing service numbers with the letter X, which is a standard practice adopted by many operators across the bus industry, so that our customers can more easily identify the limited stop nature of each route by their service number.

“We welcome the deregulated bus market and competition in a fair environment but having operated in West Lothian for over 100 years, we know the market is not large enough to support the current level of provision.”

The company added the change was to make all limited stop services "more identifiable", despite matching Lothian's equivalent.

First have also announced a new service, the X22, which replaces the 701 and will serve Hermiston Park and Ride and connect Shotts, Harthill, Whitburn and Blackburn with the Capital.

However it will see West Lothian College lose its connection with the X22 and X23.

The changes to First's services will come into effect on 27 January.

In October, Lothian commercial director Nigel Serafini said the move to expand into West Lothian was done to "better serve" the local community.

Then, the publicly-owned bus company increased the frequency of its X27/X28 services serving Blackburn, Eliburn and Howden, and introduced the X38 from Linlithgow to Edinburgh and covering Winchburgh, Kirkliston, Ratho Station and Corstorphine into service on November 17.

Lothian declined to comment when contacted about First's rebrand of service 38.