Two-thirds of bus services face axe if tram plan gets go-ahead
UP to two-thirds of bus services will be axed from key routes through the city if trams get the go-ahead.
A new study into the impact of trams has revealed that at least 31 buses will be taken off the roads every hour in areas such as Leith Walk. The hugely successful airport bus link will also be cut back by 50 per cent.
A new body - Transport Edinburgh Limited (TEL) - made up of Lothian Buses, Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (TIE) and the city council has been set up to oversee the "integration" of trams and buses in the Capital.
The company will own both trams and buses, with all profits collected under the one roof so as to avoid competition.
The latest study was compiled earlier this month by Lothian Buses on a confidential basis for TIE - the council-owned company behind the tram plans - but has now been released under the Freedom of Information Act.
SNP councillor Steve Cardownie today urged city transport leaders to safeguard the future of Lothian Buses.
"I have received assurances that the bus company will not be run down or used to prop up the trams financially," he said. "But if they are going to take off so many buses, then I have to wonder what their interpretation of 'run down' is.
"Trams will bring job losses in the bus industry, and there are a lot of other questions that need to be answered before funding is committed in summer."
The largest number of bus services will be cut between Leith Walk and St Andrew Square, where the existing 47 buses per hour will be scaled back to 16.
Popular routes such as the number 22 - recently increased to every four minutes - will be axed from Leith Walk.
Lothian Buses' Airlink service to the airport has seen record growth in recent years, but with both a tram line and a new rail link in the pipeline, its frequency will be cut by half to just four trips per hour.
Under plans adopted by councillors last Thursday, only one tram line will be built as a first phase from Leith to the airport, with a possible spur from Haymarket to Granton if costs can be controlled.
If this goes ahead, Lothian Buses said it will not cut any services around the Western General Hospital.
The bus company has also insisted that two "effective interchanges" are built at the Foot of Leith Walk and St Andrew Square, to ensure people can be persuaded to swap from trams to buses.
Passengers will not be able to travel to certain destinations on just one form of transport, which could lead to a loss of custom.
There is also a fear that people will dodge paying fares by boarding trams at the rear of the vehicle.
But Neil Renilson, chief executive of both Lothian Buses and TEL, said:
"There is no doubt that this tram scheme will be a major boost for the city from many perspectives.
"We need to avoid any unnecessary duplication of provision between trams and buses."
Although Edinburgh already has one of the highest rates of public transport usage in the country, TIE believes it can boost this even more by attracting car users on to trams.
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