CITY leaders in Edinburgh have formally backed plans which will see Scotland’s only publicly-owned bus company operate the controversial new tram line.
• Lothian Buses have been confirmed by city leaders as the firm that will operate Edinburgh’s new tram line
• Firm will integrate existing routes into its bus network from next year
Lothian Buses will integrate its existing routes into the Edinburgh Trams network when it is introduced next year.
Transport chiefs will announce a date for the launch of the 8.1 mile route next month after years of setbacks and cost overruns on the £776m project.
The agreement, approved by councillors following a debate at the City Chambers on Thursday, details a series of items including the fact that ticket prices will be the same as Lothian Buses, currently £1.50 for a journey.
It also states that 53 ticket inspectors will be employed in addition to drivers for security and to ensure fare dodging is restricted to three per cent of journeys.
The agreement also paved the way for the introduction of Transport for Edinburgh, a new publicly company which will operate the trams.
It will be comprised of senior directors at Lothian Buses and elected councillors, although the Liberal Democrats, whose defeat at the Local Government Elections in 2012 was widely linked to mishandling of the project, have opted not to sit on the board.
Several tram experts will also sit on the board. Although the council is yet to announce them, sources have suggested they are likely to have worked on the Dublin or Croydon trams or schemes in Europe such as in Amsterdam.
Cllr Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader, said that the agreement paved the way for the launch of the tram next year.
She told The Scotsman: “This is quite a significant move forward for integrated transport in the city. We’ve agreed the operation agreement between Lothian Buses and the council for the operation of the tram.
“What is significant about that is it will mean Lothian Buses will be the operator and there will be integration between tram and bus, bus and tram and ticketing and that’s a really big step forward.
“Come September, we will be announcing when the trams will be operating and when we will have the first passengers on board.”
Business leaders have previously been told there is a possibility of a Christmas launch - well ahead of the official summer 2014 deadline.
However, recent setbacks around Shandwick Place in the West End of the city centre are thought to have pushed the timetable back until next year.