Lothian Buses fair rise not funding tram extension, say chiefs

Fare rises on Lothian Buses are not linked to Edinburgh's tram extension, say bosses. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Fare rises on Lothian Buses are not linked to Edinburgh's tram extension, say bosses. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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LOTHIAN Buses has moved to quash suspicions the service’s latest price hike is linked to a mooted £20 million payout to fund the tram extension.

Bosses yesterday announced adult and child single tickets will each increase by 10p to £1.60 and 80p respectively from April 10.

They pointed out the fare rise was the first in three years and would pay for a raft of improvements to services, as well as more drivers.

But fears were raised the hike was connected to council plans to ask Lothian Buses for a £20m extraordinary dividend towards a potential extension of the tram line down to Newhaven.

READ MORE: Fears Edinburgh bus fare rise to fund tram extension

Transport chiefs today rejected the claim, and insisted the rise would pay for training, extra staff, improved services and “skilled mechanics” to keep the company’s “growing and increasingly advanced fleet” on the road.

They said the decision had been based “on balancing many different factors”, adding: “Although inflation and fuel costs may be relatively low at this moment, Lothian Buses, in common with most businesses, has a wide range of costs and increases in these over time still need to be met.”

Bosses further argued a 10p price rise was “proportionate” and “extremely competitive with comparable services”, as well as being in line with changes to First Bus and Stagecoach fares.

And they said a range of new initiatives – including the introduction of wi-fi to the whole fleet, the mobile app, new ticketing options and upgrades to travel shops – all had to be funded.

Jim McFarlane, general manager of Lothian Buses, said: “Our business results and passenger satisfaction surveys speak for themselves, but these achievements require investment in staff, buses and indeed every aspect of our operation.

“This year we are pleased to have been able to freeze prices for three-quarters of our regular and loyal customers while continuing to find new ways of improving our service even more.”

The latest service shake-up will see more buses brought in, routes expanded and jobs for 40 new drivers and ten apprentice engineers.

Changes include more frequent Sunday services, as well as the key bus link between the Western General and Royal Infirmary increasing from every 30 minutes to every 20 from Monday to Friday.

Despite adult and child single tickets going up in price, transport bosses insist 75 per cent of passengers will remain unaffected by the hike, with the cost of Ridacard season tickets, Daytickets, NightBuses, Day&Night tickets and Airlink services all remaining the same.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, transport leader, said: “This will be the first increase to the single fare in three years and will allow Lothian Buses to continue to improve the service.”