Smooth handover of axed First routes to help passengers

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LOTHIAN Buses’ plans to take over routes ditched by a rival bus firm will ensure no gap in service for passengers.

The council-run bus company is taking over timetables abandoned by First following the firm’s announcement in April that it was pulling out of loss-making routes in East Lothian and Midlothian, sparking fears some rural communities would be left marooned.

It has emerged that both counties should expect a seamless switch, with First finally concluding a staggered withdrawal by July 1.

New operator East Lothian Buses – which is part of Lothian Buses – has announced details of its new timetable, which includes a new 113 service to run every half-hour from the Western General Hospital to Easter Pencaitland in East Lothian, with extra buses at morning and evening rush hour.

The service will come into effect on June 11, with First pulling out on June 10. Buses will run from 6.35am to 12.30am Monday to Friday, with a reduced weekend service.

Evening and Sunday services will be run in partnership with East Lothian Council.

The rubber-stamping of timetables for Midlothian is expected within days, but a temporary shuttle service between Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and Gorebridge will be in place from June 11 until further details are announced.

Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, said he was pleased bus routes have been saved, but said he would be lobbying Lothian Buses to go further and replace services previously lost under First Group.

He said: “Along the upper side of Mayfield, nothing runs. I have spoken to many people who work at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and say when they come back at night they have to walk home in the dark.

“Now we know the routes have been saved, we can now go to the next stage. This is not the end of it.”

Ian Craig, managing director of Lothian Buses, said: “Due to the loss of the service 86 operated by First from June 10, Lothian Buses are pleased to announce the extension of our existing service 33 to Birkenside from June 24.

“To ensure there is no disruption, we will be running a temporary service 33 shuttle bus from Birkenside to the Royal Infirmary for two weeks from June 11.

“First will withdraw its remaining services in Midlothian from June 23, and Lothian Buses will launch its new routes on June 24.”