Traffic congestion ‘a threat to Lothian Buses reliability’

Traffic congestion in Morningside. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
Traffic congestion in Morningside. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
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Traffic congestion in the Capital threatens the reliability of the city’s bus services, according to the managing director of Lothian Buses.

Richard Hall told the Evening News that increasing congestion is turning ­customers away from using bus services as the company announced improvements and new routes ahead of the ­reopening of Leith Street, which has been closed since September 2017.

Department for Transport statistics show that there has been a 5.8 per cent decrease in bus use since the same period last year, with the city’s nose-to-tail traffic thought to be at fault.

Mr Hall said: “The cost of congestion is not just the impact on our customer’s journey time but also significantly increases the amount of resources we have to deploy and the associated costs in terms of additional drivers and buses.”

In the last two years, Lothian Buses has added 22 buses to their fleet at a cost of around £3.3 million in an effort to maintain smooth-running services for their customers, but with numbers boarding in decline, the company has not hit its additional revenue targets.

Now Mr Hall is calling for action to be taken to make bus journeys quicker and take more cars off the road.

He said: “Lothian are constantly trying to innovate by changing the way we operate, introducing new technology to speed up boarding and making incremental changed to reduce impact.

“Real action needs to be taken to deal with this, the long-term impact on not only the bus industry but also the wider economic and retail impacts are significant. One bus takes 75 cars off the road. Buses are the solution.”

Edinburgh commuters will breath a sigh of relief at the end of July when Leith Street, one of the city’s arterial roads that connects Leith Walk and York Place to Princes Street, will welcome traffic after a ten-month closure.

The busy street was closed to traffic at both directions between Calton Road and Waterloo Place while developers installed £6 million worth of improvements that included new gas and water pipes.

Cyclists, pedestrians and emergency services still had access during the closure.

Lothian Buses will unveil its new services on Sunday, July 29 in line with the main road’s reopening and in an effort to ease some of the pressure caused by congestion, causing their services to be slowed down.

The new Service 400 will provide a vital direct link to Edinburgh Airport from the south-east and south-west of the city. There will be more provision for the student population of the city with a new service that will run between Ocean Terminal and Heriot Watt’s Riccarton Campus, as well as increasing the number of buses serving Napier University’s Sighthill Campus.

The bus company has also revealed it will reintroduce the historic service 29 link to Silverknowes Promenade following a nine-year closure, after being lobbied by local businesses and after significant investment in the area by Edinburgh council.

The call from Lothian Buses to push the brakes on car congestion comes after coach firm Stagecoach urged politicians for tougher action on gridlocked traffic and put buses at the heart of plans to improve local air quality in the city.

Stagecoach East Scotland managing director Paul Thomas said: “This is not specifically about Stagecoach, or any other bus company, it’s about the impact of congestion on bus passengers and other road users in the area, and the situation simply cannot continue if we are to continue improving the local bus network and improving the local environment.

“Our passengers are paying the price for short-sighted policies that have led us to this point – we urgently need politicians to take practical action to get our towns and cities moving again. Buses are key to delivering this – effective bus networks can boost the local economy, improve traffic flow, reduce air pollution and help improve air quality.

“We are playing our part by investing in improvements for customers including in digital technology, new routes and new vehicles, but we need politicians to play their part to help buses flourish. All of the tools exist for them to take ­action now.”

For more information on the Lothian Buses improvements, or to plan a journey, go to www.lothianbuses.co.uk.