12 July 2008

Passengers lose out as tram lines installed

The Edinburgh Evening News reports that bus passengers are facing three years of service cuts in the Capital, despite Lothian Buses - Edinburgh's largest bus operator - making record profits last year. Yesterday Lothian Buses blamed disruption to services by trams roadworks for a five per cent drop in passenger numbers so far this year. Falling customer numbers and the rising cost of fuel means the company is facing its toughest trading conditions in over a decade and bosses say cuts in services must be made.

Recently the council-owned company posted results showing profits rose by 20 per cent to £5.9 million during 2007. As a result, the city council stands to pick up a £2m dividend – just as the bus company is looking to axe loss-making services. This has understandably angered local residents and tourists alike, with the council perhaps feeling duty-bound to forgo a proportion of the dividend and to use this excess to ensure the continuation of bus services making marginal profits.

Ian Craig, managing director of Lothian Buses, said: "It is clear the disruption in the city centre and elsewhere has lost us more passengers than we have gained from the petrol price increases. This confirms that, due to the disruption, we have lost five per cent of our passengers. This is in line with figures from some major Princes Street retailers who, I understand, are reporting sales in central Edinburgh hit harder than at other locations."

In March, Lothian Buses revealed it was facing a £4m shortfall because of increases in tax and fuel costs, as well as a Scottish Government freeze on a rebate to transport operators used to cover rises in fuel duty and the requirement to allocate more buses to maintain service frequencies during the disruptive roadworks to install the new tram system. Lothian claim that they are able to cope so far due to a very successful year in 2007 - a year in which only the day ticket increased in price. All this and a total of 85 brand new buses entered service on the streets of Edinburgh, at a cost of £17.8 million.