STAGECOACH is to axe a pioneering taxi-bus service after it failed to make a profit in two years.
Chief executive Brian Souter launched the Yellow Taxibus service between Edinburgh and Fife with Nicol Stephen, the then transport minister, in 2003. It was pitched as an alternative to the car for commuters living in housing estates in Fife.
The service was popular during rush hour and in the evenings during the Festival, but lost money at quiet times of the day. The last bus will run on November 13.
Stagecoach had invested 325,000 in 13 Mercedes minibuses for the service and lost an unspecified sum on the running costs.
A core group of around 1,000 passengers per week used the service, which picked commuters up from their homes in Fife and dropped them off in central Edinburgh.
Stagecoach also axed a taxi-bus service in Petersfield, Hampshire. But Souter said the idea could work with public sector support: "Yellow Taxibus has demonstrated a core market and improved public transport services can be developed in a congested urban area."
Stagecoach is now seeking financial support from Fife Council to create a new service which would help needy or disabled people.
Souter said: "Yellow Taxibus has had some of the best customer feedback of any new initiative we have launched.
"We believe there is real potential for a range of Yellow Taxibus-style phone-and-go services across the country that can boost social inclusion in our communities, tackle congestion in our cities and improve the quality of life for thousands of people."
The buses ran every 10 minutes and charged between 4.75 and 8 for a return journey. The scheme raised the hackles of taxi drivers in Fife, who formed an action group and threatened to complain to the Office of Fair Trading.
Stagecoach said its service had lower operating costs than similar schemes.