Edinburgh buses: City hopper ticket plan could allow passengers to take two buses but pay one fare

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Council chiefs are to urge Lothian Buses to create a new ticket so passengers who need to catch two buses to their destination only have to pay one fare.

Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.

Lib Dem councillor Edward Thornley, Drum Brae/Gyle, proposed the move at full council on Thursday (September 22), saying there seemed to be an increasing number of service changes which left passengers without direct buses which they had previously had and so having to pay more for their journey.

He said: "The Poverty Commission found the cost of public transport was a barrier to people accessing work and education. In this period of a rising cost of living, two buses instead of one raises that barrier higher and too high for some.”

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The council will discuss the "single fare" idea with Lothian Buses.   Picture: Lisa Ferguson.The council will discuss the "single fare" idea with Lothian Buses.   Picture: Lisa Ferguson.
The council will discuss the "single fare" idea with Lothian Buses. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

Cllr Thornley said other UK cities had flexible ticketing schemes, such as London’s “hopper fare”, which allowed passengers to use any service within one hour for the price of a single fare.

“I think we should consider that and ask Lothian to do so. The council can’t compel Lothian to implement such a thing, but we can suggest it.

"A scheme like this could ensure that those now having to get two buses rather than one are not detrimentally affected by the ever-shifting nature of a bus service under strain.

"We need to explore every avenue which might provide the most accessible and fair service for users so individual bus users are not penalised for something well beyond their control.”

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Cllr Thornley agreed to widen his motion to include the council talking to bus company McGill’s, who also operate in the city.

Chris Day from the Edinburgh Bus Users Group said older people, some disabled people and those under 22 already got free bus travel.

He said: “For the remaining 22-60 year-olds, a timed ticket would indeed mean passengers who need to get two buses are not penalised. At a time when the cost of living is on everyone’s minds it may also benefit those on lower incomes.”

But he warned the proposed new ticket should not be used as a wedge to lever in controversial changes set out in the council’s transport strategy.

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The Bus Users Group has previously challenged the plan to reduce the number of buses in the city centre by adopting a “to not through” approach for services.

Mr Day said: "Passengers want direct services, they do not want to change to another service. Any new ticketing initiative should not be seen as an excuse to make them to do so.”

He said it was not realistic to expect every journey should have a direct service. “But there is scope to considerably extend the reach of the network by allowing for interchange and ticketing is part of that.”

Transport convener Scott Arthur said Edinburgh had the best-value bus service in the UK, but Lothian was in a difficult position with a driver shortage – a problem, he said, across the UK and Europe – and weekday bus patronage was still not recovering after the pandemic.

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He said he had previously discussed a similar scheme with Lothian Buses, but he was happy to go back to them. “I do agree it would be a useful thing for the city, so I will make the case again and listen carefully to their answer.”

SNP councillor Neil Gardiner, who represents Pentland Hills, welcomed the proposal. He said more rural areas like Ratho did not have a direct bus service into the city centre.

“Sharing a ticket would be a way forward for that community,” he said. “Ideally they would like a direct service, but it seems unreasonable that they have to pay twice to get into their own city centre.”

The proposal was agreed without a division.

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