Two drivers, who do not want to be named, told the Edinburgh Evening News that the overcrowding problem has surfaced in recent months since shops and other businesses have started to reopen with the easing of coronavirus restrictions.
The drivers say they are expected to radio their control station when a double decker capacity of 50 passengers is exceeded - but they are only told to note the extra number of passengers getting on board. They say this is to enable the firm to monitor service usage for adjusting timetables to accommodate more or less passengers on some routes.
Currently, under social distancing rules, people from different households are encouraged by Lothian to sit apart from others on buses and leave every other seat empty.
But one regular passenger said that they were sitting on a “very busy” Number 3 service recently when a woman demanded they move their bag on the neighbouring seat so she could sit down, breaching social distancing.
The passenger said: “I felt extremely uncomfortable as the bus definitely had more people on it than was safe, with many people already standing downstairs and the driver just kept letting people on.”
Another passenger we spoke to, who was travelling on a bus to Gilmerton, said they witnessed at least eight people standing. The passenger said: “They were squashed in downstairs as the rest of the seats were full. It felt very uncomfortable and I’m not sure why people were still being let on.”
One of the drivers we spoke to said that stopping passengers from coming onto a full bus is not always straightforward because people can be abusive towards them. But they said solutions could include putting on more standby buses or taping off seats that should not be used as a deterrent to people breaching physical distancing.
Another solution mooted would be to use a green and red traffic light system at the bus door.
The driver added: “At the end of the day with overcrowding it is down to individual people’s attitudes, but Lothian should really be doing a lot more than they have been.
“It’s happening on regular buses if not every day, then every other day.”
Lyn Turner, regional officer at Unite the Union, said: “Unite is constantly monitoring the safety measures in place to protect our members and acting on feedback from them through picking up immediate issues arising with management. The safety of our members is paramount.”
Sarah Boyd, Operations Director, Lothian said: “Throughout the pandemic teams across Lothian have continued to work on the frontline and behind the scenes to deliver the best possible service for our customers, whilst having to adapt swiftly to the evolving restrictions and changing advice.
“We have always welcomed and closely followed the Scottish Government’s guidelines over the use of our services for essential travel and as Scotland moves into Level 0 restrictions, we continue to encourage customers to follow the latest advice when travelling with us.
“All of our vehicles are cleaned externally and internally on a daily basis and since the beginning of the pandemic we have implemented extensive cleaning measures ensuring more enhanced cleaning of the main customer touch-points such as hand poles and grab rails, as well as our driver cab areas. We continue to maintain a robust cleaning regime across all of our premises and enforce strict social distancing measures.”