How bus routes change; a quick guide to the process

Bus users and others often question how and why bus routes are changed, and are often very aggrieved about consultation, advance notice, and communication, or the lack of them. There is a complex set of legislation and regulations governing bus services. Lengthy but detailed explanations are here: and

EBUG’s attempt at a short guide for convenience follows:

Bus operators (who must hold an operator’s licence) are free to run any route they choose, vary or withdraw them as they see fit. Members of the public have no statutory right to input. This is set out in primary legislation.

Operators give 70 days’ notice of proposed changes to Council officials; in our case mainly the City of Edinburgh Council (this is commercially confidential). The officials then have four weeks to comment, but cannot require any alteration. The operator must register any proposed new or changed route with the Traffic Commissioner.

The operator lodges the proposal with the Traffic Commissioner. These notices must be made at least 21 days before any changes. (In an emergency or very short-term situation, this may be set aside). The public have no statutory rights to make comments or objection to any changes. We understand that concurrent with clearing proposed changes with the Traffic Commissioner, Council officials are expected to brief Councillors whose wards are affected, but local experience is that this does not always happen in practice, or filter down to the public.

Lothian Buses (LB) has a particular role in Edinburgh’s bus network, providing the great majority of (but not all) services. It is the largest of about 15 municipal bus companies and is owned by Transport for Edinburgh (TfE) which is in turn owned by the City of Edinburgh, Midlothian, East Lothian, and West Lothian Councils. The relevant shareholding of Lothian Buses by TfE is 91.01%, 5.47%, 3.13% and 0.39% shares respectively.

Lothian Buses is a commercial company and it is obliged to operate at arm’s length from its owning Councils. The only person directly appointed to its Board by the Council is the Chair. Board details are here

Articles of Association and other relevant information for these companies are available on the Companies website.
TfE –
LB –
Relationships are governed by a series of Shareholder Agreements, Memoranda of Understanding and decisions of Council and Committees, particularly the Transport and Environment Committee. Records of these are on the Council website.

There are no Councillors on the Lothian Buses Board (or that of Edinburgh Trams), but the Companies and Councillors liaise through various channels, including, but not exclusively, All Party Oversight Groups, briefings to Transport Representatives, and meetings with Councillors on specific ward issues.

Thanks to Cramond and Barnton Community Council for inspiring this item, and helpful input. However, EBUG is responsible for any factual errors.

Cammo Meadows; planning for public transport?

Travelling around the western edges of Edinburgh, it is difficult not to notice the housing developments springing up. Social media has been alive with commentary on some of them, but EBUG’s been looking particularly at ‘Cammo Meadows’, which may be a harbinger of more to come.

Cammo Meadows is immediately west of Maybury Road, towards its north end near Barnton Junction. Proposals to build there were approved despite strong local resistance from the local community, led by the Cammo Residents Association and the Cramond and Barnton Community Council; perhaps the Council felt it had no alternative.

The report to the Council Committee which approved plans for 655 mostly family houses in 2019 says the ‘Site Brief sets out the parameters for the…site’, including ‘Maximum accessibility to public transport’…’The proposal includes the provision of a bus turning circle in the north east corner of the site at Cammo Square…the applicant insisted on this to ensure the site was future proofed for public transport…’

Given EBUG’s previous criticisms of the Council for a lackadaisical approach to using Section 75 to fund bus improvements  ( ), it is encouraging that, of over £2,400,000 worth of transport improvements to be Section 75 funded here, £490,000 is allocated to bus infrastructure on Maybury Rd and bus capacity improvements, upgrading bus infrastructure.

In 2019 ‘The nearest bus services…within a 10 minute walk (800m) are accessible at North Bughtlin Rd, Queensferry Rd and Maybury Drive, providing approximately 20 bus services/hr to and from the city centre. The applicant is in active discussion with bus service providers to extend current public transport routes in to the site.’

So far so good; the developers evidently going much further than usual to achieve maximum public transport accessibility. They then discussed with Lothian Buses how to design the bus turning circle. The bus stop at the turning circle:
Work still to be done; notably, we hope, an enclosed shelter, as it is a terminus, consequently with extended waiting times.

But considering the site as a whole:

Some houses will be as much as 620m from the terminus. Did Lothian Buses suggest a bus-only road further into the site?

The 31 route into East Craigs is an alternative/additional service which may suit residents at the south end of the site. East Craigs has a network of paths to bus stops served by the 31; apparently accessible from Cammo Meadows only by walking to the roundabout on Maybury Road. What will the provision be for them?

We don’t know. Local sources indicate that the development is quite permeable for pedestrians. So, better than many late 20th century/early 21st century schemes, but still some way to go.

It is worth repeating EBUG’s view that the desirable aspiration for Edinburgh should be a maximum of 400m from any residence to the nearest bus stop. Not the figure of 400m BETWEEN bus stops, on which the Council bizarrely and incorrectly fixated some years ago.

Bus routes can change to meet passenger needs. But, realistically, only if the infrastructure allows them to do so.

Meanwhile Cramond and Barnton Community Council continues to engage with the new residents of Cammo Meadows to understand their bus aspirations. It is also talking to Lothian Buses and City of Edinburgh Council officials about additional service provision in the area, particularly covering the Cammo Meadows hub, with a view to securing connectivity to the new primary school and GP surgery in the area and the emerging housing developments at West Craigs and Turnhouse Road. The Section 75 development gain money is welcome, but the ultimate aim of the community is to gain a service that is sustainable in the long term.

EBUG comments on the Edinburgh Tram extension and buses

As Trams to Newhaven nears completion, there’s been much discussion in print and social media about the design/implementation of streetscape features, particularly on Leith Walk. The City of Edinburgh Council’s present and previous transport convenors made it clear that there will be a thorough review and rectification process, consistent with the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance.

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Written deputation by six local groups to the Council’s Transport and Environment Committee, 8 December

Joint statement

A Working Group formed in summer 2022, partly following the removal of a bus lane on the A8 which provoked wider concern over the future of Edinburgh bus lanes. Members include Edinburgh Bus Users Group, Spokes, Living Streets Edinburgh Group, BEST, SW20 and CRAG. The members continue to be independent organisations, but all recognise that bus lanes are important because they reduce bus journey times. They also reduce bus operator costs, and provide a degree of priority and protection for cyclists and emergency vehicles among others.

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