Passengers to pay the price with rise in bus ticket costs

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BUS fares in the Capital are to rise as a result of soaring fuel costs and fears over reduced Scottish Government funding, it was announced today.

&#149 Single fares will rise to 1.30 while day ticket prices will jump to 3.20

The price of a single fare with Lothian Buses will go up by 10p to 1.30 from April 3, while a day ticket will rise to 3.20. Adult Ridacard prices will also go up, but all child and student fares will stay the same.

&#149 How do you feel about the impending rise in Lothian Buses fares? Vote here

Bus company bosses said the rise was unavoidable and insisted it had nothing to do with fears that bus services could be used to subsidise trams in the future.

It is the first major price rise from the company in 27 months.

Managing director Ian Craig said: "On a personal level it's something that I very much regret because we all know how difficult the economic situation is at the moment. However, we have kept this increase to the absolute minimum."

He said the rising price of fuel was the main cause of the price hike, leaving the firm facing a 40 per cent increase in its fuel bill, which he said equated to "multiple millions" of pounds.

The firm has already lost around 2.5m a year through a reduction in Scottish Government payments for carrying non fare-paying passengers such as the elderly and disabled.

Bosses fear it could lose more after the May elections due to possible cuts in the rebate it receives on fuel duty, but Mr Craig said the decision-making process which led to the price rise was unrelated to the proposals to merge the tram and bus firms, though he admitted that could change in future.

He said: "There's absolutely no relationship between that decision-making process and any future commercial involvement with Edinburgh Trams, and until such a time as the tram is operational - and only in the circumstances where the tram does form a part of our enlarged business, as is envisaged - will (the tram] impact on pricing. Until then, there's no question of that being the case."

In December, Lothian Buses chairman Ron Hewitt insisted that there would be no rise in bus fares to bail out the tram service.

Financial pressure on the company is also coming from its major shareholder, the city council, which has demanded an increased dividend of 3m. Mr Craig said the 1m rise in the dividend was "one of many factors but not the driving factor" behind the fare increase.

Managers are also in negotiations with union officials after drivers submitted a four per cent pay demand.

Mr Craig said Lothian Buses had been increasing its services since cuts were last made in 2009 and he planned to continue investing.

This year the company will spend 16.5m on new buses, including 15 diesel electric hybrids, 8m on the rebuilding of its Longstone garage and more than 1m on rebuilding its control room.

He said: "Ninety-five per cent of our income does come from our customers.

"We're not subsidy junkies and we do depend very much on the volumes travelling to continue to support the growth and development of the business."

Fares fair?

Adult single: Up from 1.20 to 1.30

Adult day ticket: Up from 3 to 3.20

Ridacard 1 week: Up from 15 to 16

Ridacard 4 week: Up from 45 to 48

Ridacard annual: Up from 540 to 576

Ridacard direct debit monthly: Up from 42 to 45

&#149 Child and student fares to remain the same.