Two bus stops disappeared completely from outside the hospital on Crewe Road South, while a shelter on the south side of Princes Street was stripped of its roof, glass wall panels, sign post and Bus Tracker digital display.
Flummoxed city officials called the police after discovering they had been taken during the early hours of yesterday morning, fearing that more might vanish during the course of the day.
But the disappearances stopped after the council contacted Clear Channel, which owns more than a third of Edinburgh’s bus shelters and has just lost a multi-million pound contract to manage them on behalf of the city.
The contract worth around £5 million a year has been handed to rival advertising giant JCDecaux ending Clear Channel’s ten-year association with the city.
Clear Channel said it had ripped them out after its contract expired on August 3 and it heard nothing from the council.
But city officials reported the firm to the Health and Safety Executive and to the police for allegedly breaking bylaws governing road works.
Transport leader councillor Lesley Hinds said: “I understand that Clear Channel is disappointed they haven’t won the new contract but their reputation is on the line here.
“It’s irresponsible of them not to inform anyone – not the council, not the roads commissioner, not the tram service – and to come in overnight and not just remove the whole bus stop, but to take the bus number and the Bus Tracker away, too, leaving cut wires.
“I’m angry that we’ve had a relationship with a contractor for a number of years – a very large, reputable company – and their behaviour has been irresponsible and unacceptable.
“I’m hoping they have learnt we are not a council to be mucked about with.”
The Evening News understands a truce has been reached and no further shelters will be removed. City officials claim both parties agreed to minimise disruption during the contract handover.
A spokesman for Clear Channel said: “Clear Channel’s contract to provide advertising sales, and cleaning and maintenance for Edinburgh bus shelters came to an end on August 3 this year after four decades proudly serving the people of Edinburgh.
“Since then, as a gesture of goodwill, we have continued to clean and maintain non-advertising shelters at our cost even though we have no contractual obligation to do so.
“Despite making an offer to the council to sell the non-advertising shelters in August, we have heard nothing from them and as a result took the difficult decision to remove three shelters yesterday as per our contract.
“We are pleased the council has made contact with us and we remain committed to ensuring an orderly removal of the bus shelters.
“Their replacement is, of course, a matter for the council and/or any new contractor.”
Switch not so seamless
CLEAR Channel’s ten-year contract to maintain bus shelters in Edinburgh is believed to have been worth up to £5 million a year.
The firm has worked with the city for four decades and makes money by selling adverts on 430 of its 536 bus shelters. It is understood adverting rates on Princes Street can reach up to £400,000. As of yesterday, Clear Channel’s website still included a plug for firms to advertise on its Princes Street bus shelters.
After the contract expired on August 3, some shelters should have been dismantled, but city officials believe they had an agreement for a seamless switch from Clear Channel to new firm JCDecaux.