Edinburgh plans to merge buses and trams in major shake-up of public transport

Lothian Buses is an award-winning company   Photo: Lisa FergusonLothian Buses is an award-winning company   Photo: Lisa Ferguson
Lothian Buses is an award-winning company Photo: Lisa Ferguson
City’s bus network will be redesigned

THE Capital’s flagship council-owned bus company is set to be merged with Edinburgh Trams to form a single operation in a major shake-up of public transport in the city, putting an end to competition between buses and trams.

The move to bring together Lothian Buses and the tram company and scrap the overarching organisation Transport for Edinburgh would mean savings in senior management and other operational costs.And council chiefs say the creation of a single, integrated company would be accompanied by a comprehensive new public transport strategy and a redesign of Edinburgh’s bus network, which would include tackling congestion in the city centre, particularly reducing the number of buses using Princes Street.

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The council said the Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams brands would remain while unnecessary competition between the two was eliminated.

Artist's impression of a tram on Leith WalkArtist's impression of a tram on Leith Walk
Artist's impression of a tram on Leith Walk

But the city council will have to have talks with the other Lothian authorities, who own nine per cent of the shares in Lothian Buses.

A report to be considered by councillors next week acknowledges the ongoing success of the existing companies in providing high quality, award-winning transport services which are greatly valued by the public and predicts a growth in transport provision across the city.

It notes the current structure, which dates back to 2014, was intended to help integrate the Capital’s transport network, but it says in the period since then “delivery of the required integration has proved challenging”.

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It adds that in light of challenges, the future projected growth of the city and the “urgent need to maximise efficiency and effectiveness”, a rapid re-structuring of the city’s transport companies is proposed.

And it recommends the creation of a single company as the preferred option, the other two being “do nothing” or adapting the current structure.

The report says: “This option would put integration and improving outcomes for the travelling public at the heart of public transport delivery and would see an end to the competition between tram and bus at a local level. It would also maximise operational savings.”

Arguing the need for a revamp of the Capital’s public transport, the report says “The current bus network is 100 years old and while this has served the city well in the past it now needs to be recast and modernised using best practise and external expertise as is being done in other cities such as Dublin.

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“The only alternative to congestion is for a larger share of the public to rely on public transport and other alternative modes. This requires services that most efficiently respond to the city’s changing needs, as well as bus priority to give buses priority over cars that reflect the vastly larger numbers of people on each bus.”

Council Leader Adam McVey said: “This is about creating a sustainable, accessible and joined-up public transport system that is fit for the future.

“We simply must change the way we move around the city if we are to meet our ambitious goals to become carbon neutral by 2030 and to create a fairer, more inclusive environment.

“We wholeheartedly appreciate the roles of both Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams in providing high quality, award-winning public transport and excellent customer service, and will always do everything we can to help our companies achieve that."

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Depute council leader Cammy Day said the changes would not “negatively impact” on the jobs of those employed by the current companies.

“Rather, as we lead the charge toward a zero-carbon future, we want to increase reliance on sustainable public transport, and as bus and tram use continues to grow, we’ll need more drivers and staff to run the companies.

“However, we can’t move forward with these aspirations as it stands – we know that the current structure has led to inefficiencies. Of course this will take time and a great deal of engagement and planning, but by driving better integration, ensuring improved governance and putting the needs of the public at the centre of public transport delivery, I know we can provide a system that future generations will thank us for.”

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