Edinburgh council to look at how it can support bus services for cut-off communities

A review has been ordered in a bid to secure bus services for communities across the Capital currently cut off from public transport and where routes would not be commercially viable.

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The move followed pleas for services in Willowbrae and Dumbiedykes to be restored.

Craigentinny/Duddingston Tory councillor Iain Whyte told full council the No 69 hopper bus serving the Willowbrae and Lady Nairne area had been withdrawn with little warning in early 2020.

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He said Lothian Buses had failed to give the minimum notice required. “The driver just started telling people it would not continue.” And despite cross-party calls for it to be restored, nothing had happened.

“This is the area of housing up the side of Arthur's Seat. It’s a very hill area, there are a number of older people there, there are a number of people with mobility issues and they have relied on that bus service as their only mode of transport.”

He said there was only one small shop and the area was otherwise entirely residential.

And he suggested alternatives to a traditional bus service should be explored, including the use of suitable smaller vehicles.

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The No 35 Lothian Bus has now returned to the Royal Mile. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

Joanna Mowat, Tory councillor for City Centre ward, said residents in Dumbiedykes often struggled to get to shops and other services in the Pleasance and the Southside. “What saved them until recently was the resurfacing of the Royal Mile and the diversion of the 35 up Holyrood Road, so they have had a service recently but that has now been taken back off Holyrood Road. This is another community looking for a bus.”

She said the City Mobility Plan envisaged a hopper bus to serve the area longer term, but she warned: “They can’t wait for that.”

City Centre Labour councillor Margaret Graham said with more than 600 flats in the Dumbiedykes area it was imperative that suitable public transport links were put in place.

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She said: "Several of the residents tell me the hills were not an issue for them when they moved in more than 50 years ago, but now they struggle to get up what is locally known as Oxygen Brae to manage everyday appointments at doctors or the bank.”

City Centre Green councillor Claire Miller said she had previously called for a review of the way the council used funding for supported bus services.

“That has been the blocker to affording bus services in communities such as Willowbrae, Dumbiedykes, Ratho and places across out city where there isn’t a commercial case for a bus service, where it would require a subsidy and it does require the council to step in. It doesn’t matter whether the route is long or short. What matters is that the communities that are cut off from public transport are served.”

The council agreed to call for reports from officials on what could be done to provide bus services for the Willowbrae/Lady Nairne and Dumbiedkyes areas, but also to have a wider review of community requirements for supported bus services across Edinburgh, including consideration of alternative models of provision such as demand-responsive transport and community transport.

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