EBUG Annual General Meeting; agenda and Committee’s report

18:00 on Thursday 6 June 2024, in the Augustine United Church, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh
1. Welcome, Apologies
2. To agree: minutes of 2023 AGM
3. To agree: Committee report 2023/24
4. To agree: Accounts 2023/24 (independently examined and signed*)
4. To elect: members of EBUG’s Committee
5. Guest Speaker David Begg will talk on: “Lothian Buses are the jewel in Edinburgh’s transport crown: don’t let traffic congestion destroy it”
6. Q&A
 * signed version was uploaded 29-05-24

Annual Report 2023/24

This is the Committee’s report of EBUG’s work over the year. As always, more details are provided in the Members’ Bulletins, which are also posted on our website.
We have increased the frequency of Members Bulletins to once every two months, and also posted the first contribution by a ‘guest writer’ on our website.
Following much criticism of the new layout at Elm Row, the Council had a ‘stakeholder discussion’; we took part. This was productive and we are now looking forward to significant improvements to the bus stops there.
We kept chipping away at the late (and continuing) roll-out of a new Bustracker system. It now seems that the remaining problems affect only Lothian Buses services. Given past disappointments, we won’t suggest when the system will be fully functional. Keep an eye on media reports!
Our early optimism about the Council’s bus priority programme proved premature when the Scottish Government ‘paused’ funding in its budget. We highlighted the folly of this at every opportunity, and wrote to every Lothian and neighbouring MSP calling for reinstatement of the Bus Partnership Fund in 2024-25.
We submitted comments on Edinburgh Council’s Public Transport and other Action Plans, and did a deputation at the Transport and Environment Committee in February, which considered related reports. Whilst the first review of the City Mobility Plan markedly improved on the first version, we:
● Suggested a general philosophy of doing less, but better.
● Expressed scepticism about Mobility Hubs and ‘Mobility as a Service’.
● Requested clarity on several issues.
● Called for any further tram routes to be based on a network approach including buses, with high quality public transport infrastructure and public realm; and buses planned in from the outset.
We updated our comments on the Newhaven tram extension and buses, which informed our position on future tram extensions and Elm Row (see above). We particularly highlighted failings among the stops and shelters which have been installed. Transport Minister Fiona Hyslop wrote to Edinburgh’s Transport Convener, setting out a willingness to consider on-bus cameras to help enforce bus lanes; a welcome change from previous stonewalling by Transport Scotland. EBUG had a part in stirring this pot!
We took part in pre-consultation discussions on the future of George Street. The outcome is not too bad, but not outstanding, for buses. There is still a very long way to go.

We responded to Holyrood’s Cross-Party Group on Sustainable Transport inquiry into cutting public transport emissions.
In April, it was reported that the Council’s lease on the bus station site is under threat when it expires in 2027, as the owners want to redevelop it for residential use. This would be a significant issue for medium and long distance buses. This will be a continuing and developing story; we suggest EBUG members keep and eye on our website and Twitter account, as well as mainstream media.
Of course much, if not most, of the Committee’s work reflects key events over the past year. We can’t list every Committee activity, but some key events that have, or will have, a significant impact on services in and around Edinburgh are:
Edinburgh’s budget for 2024-5 includes an additional £300,000 for supported bus services, increasing the total from about £1.5 million/yr to £1.8 million. It remains to be seen whether this will be swallowed up by inflation or allow some overall improvements to these services.
McGills withdrew its commercial services from West Lothian, claiming they’re not financially viable given competition from the Lothian Buses group.
Penalty charges for misusing bus lanes will increase to £100 (the maximum allowed by the Scottish Government).
Buses made a rare appearance in the media spotlight when Strathclyde Partnership for Transport decided to franchise bus services in its area. We cannot foresee any consequences for Edinburgh (there may be for the wider Lothians). Members will be aware that the former Lothian Region retained ownership of the biggest local operator, while Glasgow/Strathclyde sold theirs in the 1980s, and spent the money on other things.
So what are the big issues ahead? Bustracker is clearly in bus users’ minds. No doubt it will be fixed eventually; the question is when.
Public transport generally continues to slowly recover from the Covid pandemic, notably in terms of ridership, while the bus driver shortage seems to be easing.
Locally, there has been a noticeably more pro-bus attitude at the City of Edinburgh Council. The revised City Mobility Plan offers some potentially big wins for buses, although these look to be for the medium term.
The national picture is less bright. The ‘pausing’ of the Bus Partnership Fund ‘a long-term investment of over £500m…to reduce the negative impacts of congestion on bus services and address the decline in bus patronage’, which would have been the biggest investment in buses for years, leaves us bereft of a game-changing initiative. No doubt the Scottish Government would cite its aim of reducing car mileage by 20% (Edinburgh aims higher), but evidence on the ground of how it plans to achieve this is remarkably scarce.