Buses 'could avoid Edinburgh city centre' in future following Hogmanay trial

Transport officials have indicated that buses turning around when they reached the closed city centre at Hogmanay could be a “trial” for any further shake-up of services.

Buses could avoid Edinburgh city centre in the future following a successful trial on Hogmanay. PIC: Neil Hanna/TSPL.

Officers from Edinburgh City Council were quizzed by the authority’s transport and environment committee over the draft city mobility plan – which indicates a “comprehensive new bus strategy” will be drawn up by 2025 – including a review of stops, routes and public transport interchanges.

The vision also states that “bus penetration of key streets like Princes Street will be addressed” and the “to not through” philosophy for the city centre will be in place.

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Ewan Kennedy, the council’s senior transport manager, said the diversions forced onto Lothian Buses when streets were closed for the Hogmanay street party, could be used as a prelude for how services could operate in the future.

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“I met the managing director earlier in the week and he reported that was really successful – they significantly reduced the number of customer complaints and concerns, they substantially provided a more reliable service. It was a snapshot around that basic principle that was kind of trialled over that period.”

But bosses from Lothian Buses, which is owned by the council, have stressed that the Hogmanay set-up was “significantly different” to its regular services.

Alan Black, Lothian’s head of service delivery, said: “We are committed to operating an accessible network for our customers, that takes them where they want to go. With over 2.3 million customers relying on our services every week, Lothian has one of the highest levels of bus usage in the UK – a figure which we need to grow as a solution to the climate emergency.

“Our special events operation on Hogmanay is significantly different to the normal day-to-day running of our network. Our customers have widely differing expectations in how they plan their normal daily travel patterns and how they reach their destinations.

“The revised Hogmanay plan this year and specific diversions were designed around the road closures associated with Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations and took into account many years operating experience to ensure that we delivered an improved service for all.”

A public consultation will be launched for the public and organisations to have their say on the 10-year strategy.

The council’s transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “Promoting and encouraging the use of public transport, along with active travel, is a key priority under our city mobility plan. But it’s essential that we rethink the way we route the many services visiting our city centre if we are to reduce congestion while improving accessibility, integration and public transport efficiency.

“This is about serving people in every corner of the city as effectively as possible while creating high quality, people-friendly spaces for those on foot or bike. We really want to know what people think about these proposals so I would encourage anyone who is interested to share their views when our consultation begins.”