On-street ticket machines driven out by bus bosses

BUS bosses are set to scrap more than 30 on-street ticket machines which have cost around £150,000 in less than four years.

&#149 The machines were introduced in 2007 in a bid to speed up journeys.

Lothian Buses said it had begun removing the machines already, despite the technology originally being intended for use with the city's trams.

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Thirty-two of the machines were installed at a cost of around 100,000 in late 2007 with the aim of speeding up bus journeys by encouraging passengers to buy their tickets before boarding.

They also offered tickets at a 10p reduction from those bought on the bus.

Despite their initial popularity, the number of customers using the machines has fallen away, with just 250,000 transactions in 2010 for a company which carries more than 100 million passengers a year.

A further 50,000 was spent maintaining the machines last year, but the company has now decided to get rid of the technology altogether.

Ian Craig, Lothian Buses' managing director, said: "We're always looking at ways to improve the journey experience through environmental initiatives, technological developments and operational improvements.

"As Edinburgh evolves to an integrated transport network, we felt it was an ideal time to explore ways of quickening up journeys prior to the launch of the trams and one of these was through the pre-paid on-street bus ticket machines."

However, he added: "When the equipment came to the end of its useful life, we made the decision remove the machines permanently rather than invest in new ones to keep fares down for customers. It will also help de-clutter the street furniture around bus stops."

Last year bosses at tram firm TIE said they were planning to introduce technology to allow passengers to swipe credit cards before boarding, banning the public from using cash on board the tram itself.

It is likely that similar technology will be introduced by Lothian Buses, but there are currently no plans to stop accepting cash on buses.

The ticket machines had been spread across the city, including high-profile spots such as Princes Street and Leith Walk. Lothian Buses said the machines would be removed over the next couple of weeks, with work to reinstate pavements carried out by the end of April.

Councillor Steve Cardownie, leader of the SNP group, said: "Obviously this was an expensive experiment and, probably through no fault of Lothian Buses, it hasn't worked out.

"The firm is good enough and strong enough to easily recovery from this. I think this actually says more about the tram project than it does about Lothian Buses. It appears these machines have become obsolete given how long the tram project has taken."Lothian Buses can't be faulted for this because they were acting in good faith in investing in something that they believed the trams would be able to utilise as well."

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