BUS bosses have revealed soaring passenger numbers – just weeks before the city’s controversial tram line goes live.
New figures released by Lothian Buses show more people are using the city’s bus fleet today than at any time in the last 25 years.
The operator ferried 4.6 million extra passengers around the Capital last year, taking usage to a level last seen in 1988.
In total, passenger numbers increased by 4.2 per cent from 110.7 million in 2012 to 115.4 million last year.
The company also reported strong growth in season ticket sales, Edinburgh Bus Tours, and its rebranded Nightbus service.
Trams will begin accepting passengers in May, after six years of construction work and a £776 million bill.
Ahead of this, Lothian Buses will merge with the new service under the umbrella brand of Transport for Edinburgh (TfE).
Lothian Buses chief executive Ian Craig, who also leads TfE, welcomed the latest figures and spoke of how a new integrated service will offer city residents “more choice and capacity”.
He said: “We have been really pleased by the increased patronage of our buses over the course of the past year and these figures definitely show the appetite for good quality public transport.
“A thriving public transport system is vital for everyone who needs to move around Edinburgh, and our commercial success also means that we can continue to positively contribute to the public purse through dividends to our shareholders.”
City chiefs are encouraged by the figures and say they show people are increasingly choosing public transport.
Offset against a climate of increased eco awareness – and with car ownership prohibitively expensive for many – the record high shows the council is seemingly heading at pace towards its goal of an “integrated transport” network.
Indeed, city transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said the endorsement of public transport was heartening.
She said: “The continued success of Lothian Buses is good for all of us, not just those who frequently use its services, especially as we approach a new era in Edinburgh’s public transport. 2014 will be a very significant year for the Capital and Lothian Buses, as part of Transport for Edinburgh, will be at the heart of it.”
News of the 25-year-high figures has also been cheered by David Birrell, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce. He said: “These figures and the imminent arrival of trams gives encouragement that we are on the right road.”