HERITAGE campaigners have voiced fears about more buses driving through the narrow streets of the Old Town after the announcement from First Bus it is to launch an open-top tour service to compete with Lothian Buses.
The move is part of the “bus wars” which has broken out between the two operators.
Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said he shared many people’s concern about the impact of heavy traffic in the Old Town.
He said: “This year, we look set to see a increase in the number of tour buses operating within our narrow streets which is disappointing. Edinburgh is very compact and we believe is best explored on foot or bicycle.”
He urged the council to consider short-term measures to reduce congestion.
First Bus is due to launch its new hop-on hop-off open-top tours on July 1, charging £10 for a ticket to undercut Lothian Buses’ £16 ticket.
Terry Levinthal, secretary of the Cockburn Association, said he would not get involved in a spat between bus operators and added open-top tours had a role in helping people understand the city.
But he said: “There is a concern about any further increase in large vehicles, particularly in the Royal Mile, because it is already really congested.”
And he argued an increase in buses was not consistent with the council’s strategy for the city centre.
“There has been a long-standing issue with open-top tour buses, ranging from noise pollution from amplified commentaries to congestion to diesel fumes, which all contribute to a negative environment.”
Bill Cowan, of the Old Town Community Council, said he would prefer to see no tour buses at all in the historic heart of the Capital.
He said: Edinburgh is a walking city, the Old Town in particular. It’s only a mile long and half a mile wide with lots of interesting closes to walk.
“OK, some people are not able to walk but there could be small, preferably electric, vehicles that could transport them about, but you don’t need a huge big smelly double decker bus every three minutes.
“These buses are very rarely more than a quarter full. Why do they have to be such big vehicles and why so many of them? More is bad but we would like to see none.”