Edinburgh bus bosses have admitted meeting their schedules during the Festival season is “impossible” after a users’ group branded this year’s congestion the “worst ever”.
Nigel Serafini, the commercial director of the bus company, blamed rising visitor numbers, roadworks and utility works for Lothian Buses' struggle to stick to its timetable.
Congestion has also been made worse in some places by several road closures such as the Royal Mile which has forced more traffic on to already busy roads.
Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Kevin Lang disputed Lothian’s claims and said there was no clear evidence that visitor numbers have had such a large impact on the buses.
Lothian’s admission comes as the Edinburgh Bus Users Group (EBUG) said parts of the city have been “completely gridlocked” and called on City of Edinburgh Council to extend bus lane operating hours and install more bus lanes.
EBUG also branded the congestion the “worst ever” and highlighted how journey times and bus reliability have “nose-dived” this summer.
The council said it was tackling the year-round congestion problems and added it was planning a public consultation on bus lane hours later this year.
Responding to EBUG’s concerns, Mr Serafini admitted additional resources were not enough for the company to cope with the additional demand.
He said: “Our services have been operating in much more challenging conditions than we have ever previously experienced.
“This is mainly due to a significant increase in visitors to the Capital, combined with ongoing utility works and road maintenance, bringing high levels of worsening congestion.
“Despite adding in additional resources, the impact this has had on both our customers and importantly staff has been substantial. Due to this increased congestion, schedules have at times been impossible to maintain, with regular delays to our operations.”
Mr Serafini said Lothian would continue to work with the council to improve congestion in the Capital.
Transport and environment vice convener Karen Doran said: “With a growing population and steady stream of people coming to visit and work in Edinburgh every day, there’s no doubt that our roads are getting busier.
“We’re working to tackle the associated congestion year-round and are committed to promoting and prioritising public transport as a reliable, sustainable mode of transport.
“We’ve introduced measures to improve conditions on bus corridors, particularly on the well used A90 route, implemented several new bus lane cameras to enforce against misuse and are in the process of developing a methodology for rationalising bus stops, in partnership with Lothian, which would speed up journey times.
“Bus operators have a responsibility for reducing congestion too, and we will continue to work closely with companies to encourage effective route planning and integration, which would have a significant impact by lowering bus numbers and cross-city centre journeys.”
Councillor Kevin Lang said the council should introduce new bus lanes and extend opening times as a matter of priority.
He said: “I would be surprised if visitor numbers have had such a significant impact on Lothian Buses because there is conflicting evidence as to whether visitor numbers are up or down on last year.
“There have been other significant works in terms of roadworks and maintenance which has certainly compounded the issue. What this shows is the need for Lothian to work better with the council and with other partners to plan ahead as far as possible.”