More bus lane cameras possible in transport revamp

The city council hopes trams and buses will be living in harmony once the transport strategy is fully implemented. 'Picture: JULIE BULL
The city council hopes trams and buses will be living in harmony once the transport strategy is fully implemented. 'Picture: JULIE BULL
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EDINBURGH’S controversial bus lane cameras were today hailed “a success” by transport chiefs after a fall in the number of fines issued to motorists.

The city council will now consider whether to roll-out more cameras as part of its plans for how the Capital’s bus network will work with the tram line.

The cameras have brought in £908,000 in fines to city coffers since being introduced in April 2012.

City transport leader Lesley Hinds said the fact that the number of penalties issued was dropping proved the cameras were working.

“It’s too early to state whether or when we are going to extend the bus camera network as a review is under way,” she added.

“A report on this matter will come before the transport committee in the spring.”

The cameras remain controversial particularly as the council continues to take a hard line on any motorists straying into bus lanes even for a few seconds.

Drivers who slip in and out of an empty bus lane to avoid stationary cars waiting to turn right, for instance, have their appeals refused.

Council figures show that while the number of camera sites has increased, the number of infringements has fallen significantly from 3256 in the first month of operation to 2060 last December.

The council’s new Transport Strategy 2014-19 highlights the success of “bus lane camera enforcement... in reducing the numbers of infringements at selected locations”.

Lothian Buses could not say what impact the cameras have had on journey times.

Neil Greig of the Institute of Advanced Motorists said: “It all comes down to the detail and the placement of cameras. The council should really justify why an extension is warranted.
Bus lane infringements should not be relied upon as a way to supplement the transport budget.”

The first tranche of bus lane surveillance equipment sparked an outcry when thousands of drivers were erroneously fined by two cameras at Willowbrae Road.

Four weeks after the project went live, transport chiefs were forced to waive every penalty charge issued on the troubled route.

Late buses to get rushed through traffic lights

SPECIAL cameras which will switch traffic lights to green to allow late-running buses to speed through are set to be installed at major city bottlenecks.

The hi-tech solution is being brought in to ensure buses run on time with the trams and should be operating by the autumn.

It is one of a range of measures outlined in a new transport blueprint designed to allow buses and trams to operate in harmony which also reveals plans for new “orbital” bus routes along the city bypass to speed commuters from east to west.

Bus stops may also be relocated closer to the tram line, while new feeder bus services to tram stops in the west of the city are being considered.

The plans are outlined in the city council’s Local Transport Strategy 2014-2019 which is being promoted by transport convener Lesley Hinds.

She said today: “Public transport plays an important role in people’s lives and I feel this strategy will make a positive difference to Edinburgh.”

The traffic light cameras will use number plate recognition technology to recognise late bus services and switch red lights to green.

A new “orbital” Lothian Buses service linking sites such as the Gyle, Edinburgh Park, the airport and Royal Infirmary/BioQuarter is being introduced to cut congestion in the city centre. While First currently operate services on the bypass, it would be a first for Lothian.

Cllr Hinds said the “outer orbital” bus service, which doesn’t currently have a start date, would have a twin benefit. “We would direct a lot of traffic away from the city centre, whilst also reducing traffic on the bypass as people opt to use public transport.”

Streetside and smartphone ticketing, which is already being introduced, is another measure highlighted in the strategy document.

Elsewhere, the transport strategy also highlights moves to increase revenue at the city council-operated Edinburgh Bus Station, which is currently supported to the tune of £1.2 million a year. The station is used by five million people a year and on weekdays more than 800 buses arrive or depart.

Income is generated by charging UK bus operators for using the site and passengers for the use of luggage lockers and toilets, however, the station has not posted a profit since 1994.

A renovation programme is soon to start at the station, which includes refurbished toilets, seating, passenger information systems and interior décor. It is hoped this will lead to increased revenue and the return of bus operators who have chosen to pick up from Waterloo Place.

Cllr Hinds said: “The plan is to cut costs and increase revenue by upgrading the customer experience though the use of shops and toilets. This in turn will lead to a return by bus operators who we charge for use of the station.”

Green councillor Nigel Bagshaw commended the transport strategy, however, pointed out “considerable gaps”.

He said: “It sometimes feels that the city is simply juggling one set of pressures against another, within an overall unshifting or even growing volume of traffic.

“I would have liked to have seen much greater efforts to reduce road traffic volumes, with a fixed target.”

In December experts in transport law, ticketing and integrated travel were announced to head up Transport for Edinburgh (TfE) – the umbrella body which will oversee both tram and bus services.

Solicitor Ann Faulds, academic Dr Steve Cassidy and transport specialist Tony Depledge will be £8000-a-year non-executive directors at TfE for the next two years. The board will be chaired by Cllr Hinds, while three other councillors – Steve Cardownie, Joanna Mowat and Nigel Bagshaw – will also sit on the board as non-executive directors.

Four senior directors from Lothian Buses, led by chief executive Ian Craig, complete the group.

The councillors and Lothian Buses executive directors will receive no extra cash.

Mr Craig said: “We very much support the whole approach behind this strategy.

“The creation of Transport for Edinburgh was an important step in helping to integrate not only trams and buses, but also the other ways people move around the city.

“It’s about us all working together to provide Edinburgh residents, workers and visitors transport options that are efficient, accessible and environmentally-friendly.”

Bill Campbell, operations director of Transport for Edinburgh, added: “We have achieved some of the points highlighted in the strategy.

“In 2013, we introduced a new ticket to reduce the cost for families and launched our new app offering mobile ticketing.

“We look forward to working with the council and others on the next steps for many of the other objectives.”

John Lauder, national director of sustainable transport organisation Sustrans Scotland, also welcomed many of the measures but said more work was needed.

He said: “It is essential for buses and trams to be fully integrated across the city.

“The council has an aspiration to reduce car journeys to 31 per cent of all trips by 2020 and we consider that public transport options must be attractive to people in order to come close to achieving this.

“Integrated ticketing across all public transport methods, including rail, bus and tram, is necessary. It should be possible for a passenger in Bathgate to buy a ticket at the railway station that takes them to their final destination on the outskirts of Edinburgh – whether the entire journey requires to be undertaken by another train, a bus or a tram or a combination.

“No matter which modes of sustainable transport people choose, they should find their journey to be straightforward.”

Plans include:

• The possibility of extending bus lane enforcement cameras.

• An off-peak cycle carriage is to be piloted on the trams following six months of operations.

• Extending the £1 billion line to Leith, Newhaven, Granton, the Bioquarter and Newbridge might be down the pecking order, other actions more likely to come to fruition include rolling out tram feeder bus services, from areas in the west of the city.

• A fund being set up to help steer new bus services and to enhance existing services.

• Bus chiefs are also to be tasked with introducing services along the bypass in a bid to reduce traffic in the city centre while also enabling faster times across the city.

• Bustracker real-time passenger information, which is currently available at 300 bus stops, online and via smartphones, will be extended to include tram information when it becomes operational.

• An all-operator public transport map will also be created in both paper and online versions, while “next stop” electronic signs on buses will also be installed.

• Streetside ticketing machines and smartphone ticketing in a bid to cut delays on the bus and tram network.

• To ensure easier pedestrian and cycle access, a review will be carried out in conjunction with bus chiefs to identify bus stops to be relocated nearer to the tram line.

• Revenue to be increased at Edinburgh Bus Station and a refurbishment programme is soon to begin.