Members’ Bulletin 4

Dear EBUG member,

This is the fourth of our occasional updates for members. Due to the current pandemic and its knock-on consequences, activity has been minimal. As you’ll know, bus services have been reduced to a skeleton service.

Obviously EBUG could not hold our AGM in May, as we’d hoped in the last members’ update (no. 3). We can’t be sure when the AGM might be possible; all we can say at present is watch this space. Our constitution says that the first AGM should take place within 15 months of EBUG’s launch i.e. by early August; but even this looks doubtful. Your Committee hopes you’ll agree that we should be flexible about this requirement, given the exceptional circumstances.

Via the bus companies, we sent a message of appreciation to the workers who have provided a bus service over recent weeks. This includes the drivers, cleaners, mechanics, and all the other backroom staff who work behind the scenes. Let’s remember their efforts, now and into the future.

The City of Edinburgh Council withdrew the report on bus stop ‘rationalisation’ (i.e. reducing the number of stops) which was due on 27 February, so we did not take a deputation to that meeting. The idea seems to have been put on hold, but we’ll be keeping an eye open for any future developments.

On 14 May the Council agreed a programme of ‘Creating Safe Spaces for Walking and Cycling’, which, notwithstanding the title, had proposals for buses. The report is here:  fortunately the plans for bus stops in the report did not see the light of day, but other plans which will benefit bus services were approved. These include:

‘protecting and prioritising the city’s bus and tram service…Strengthening bus lanes to provide all day bus priority, and relatively protected space for cycling, by strengthening some parking and loading restrictions, extending selected bus lanes through to traffic lights and extending the operating hours of most bus lanes’. There would be some new bus lanes, such as on Queensferry Road and the A90, and bus gates. The intention is to accelerate previous City Centre Transformation proposals.

Particularly important are the criteria that ‘Proposals should not undermine the long term viability of the public transport network.

  1. The existence of a comprehensive bus network, whilst currently affected, is critical in enabling Edinburgh’s citizens, workers and visitors move around the city, access services and employment and thereby contribute to our economy.
  2. A good public transport network is also a core component in the city being able to achieve its 2030 Carbon Neutral goals. The long-term viability of the bus network must therefore be protected’.

This is a key passage to remember in future.

Turning to the future, we’re very concerned about the impact of the pandemic on our bus services. A significant drop in patronage threatens the viability of at least some bus routes. Locally and nationally, there’s been much emphasis on walking and cycling. For journeys and people where this is not possible, this leaves the car, not travelling, or public transport if it can’t be avoided.

Obviously we’re all hoping that, at some point, a return to something like normality will be possible (hopefully with reduced pollution and traffic in general). But there are particular concerns about whether the understandable short-term messaging about avoiding public transport will discourage people from using it once, hopefully, the immediate crisis is over.

Even if bus patronage returns to something like previous levels (which we suspect will take some time), bus operators have lost an enormous amount of revenue. Which takes us back to the Council report above and ‘the long-term viability of the bus network must therefore be protected’.

Even before the current crisis, in responding to consultations on Transformation and the City Mobility Plan, EBUG warned of the dangers of taking Edinburgh’s bus network for granted. In particular, the financial and service risks of reorganising the network on the basis of ideas that, as far as we could see, were badly thought out.

So, over the next few months (and longer), expect to see us returning to that message again and again.

The Committee would welcome your thoughts on this, and other issues which you feel are important, before we all meet again.

Take care till then,

Your EBUG Committee

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