No.9 – Edinburgh Bus Users’ Group: Members’ Bulletin October 2022 EBUG

Dear EBUG member,

This is the ninth of our occasional updates for members.

Our AGM took place on Thursday June 30, as publicised in the previous Members’ Bulletin (number 8, May 2022).

The main formalities were election of the Committee; as follows:

Chair: Harald Tobermann
Secretary: Chris Day
Treasurer: Bob Moseley

Also elected to the Committee: Sally Millar, Jennifer Marlborough, Gail Clapton, Colin Brown, Fiona McLean (3 places vacant).

The AGM heard from Jess Pepper of lovemybus, which spreads a positive message about buses rather than overt campaigning. Jess reflected on the mismatch between buses’ importance to daily life and the (e.g. media) attention they get. The campaign now aims to establish an upwards spiral in attitudes to bus travel.

Lovemybus reflects buses’ role in fairer transport and economically, including Scotland’s manufacturing and export sectors.

The campaign aims to reach into people’s lives, particularly through positive activities such as:

  • Recruiting ‘bus champions’
  • Establishing creative partnerships
  • Working with children and young people; now focussing on secondary schools
  • Pop-up events with employers
  • In May 2022 lovemybus led the first Scottish Bus Week.

The AGM also heard that it looks likely that a major activity for EBUG over the next year will be bus priorities and bus stops.

Recent developments

  • Encouragingly, we have noted a distinct uptick in the City of Edinburgh Council’s interest in buses since the elections in May. An early decision was to progress 7-7-7 bus lanes (i.e. 7am to 7pm, 7 days a week). As the Council decision explicitly called for consultation with EBUG, we formed a ‘soft coalition’ with other transport groups, so that we work co-operatively. Pending an invitation from CEC to a meeting to discuss “any concerns with respect to bus lane management, protection and enforcement, and share details of opportunities for expanding the bus lane network […] inform the development of the Public Transport Action Plan”. As the deadline for the latter plan is December 2022, time is getting tight!
  • Regarding our inputs to Council targets, see ‘City Mobility Plan – Mode Share Targets Update’ here. And in the same document, ‘Bus Partnership Fund Update’ and ‘Appendix 1’ for advance warning of CEC’s bus infrastructure priorities. Note, however, that Bus Partnership Fund bids to the Scottish Government across all of Scotland have been mainly for development work, with little if anything for actually building anything.
  • We also made inputs to active travel projects in South Queensferry and Burdiehouse.
  • Congratulations to Sarah Boyd, who is the new Managing Director of Lothian Buses. She takes over at a very difficult time, but is a long-standing LB manager with an excellent reputation. And happy retirement to her predecessor Nigel Serafini, after many years of stalwart service. A profile (from 2017) on LB’s website is here.
  • Services across Edinburgh continue to be cut. The shortage of drivers and other staff appears to be largely behind this, which is a UK-wide phenomenon; bus operators are also very concerned by the forthcoming ending of Covid-related financial support. This was blamed for a proposal to withdraw Firstbus supported services 20, 63, 68 in west Edinburgh. However, this was watered down following much local campaigning and action by the Council. A determined and effective campaign, especially in and around Ratho, may well result in an improved service in the medium/long-term. EBUG supported the local campaign in our usual ‘behind the scenes’ manner.
  • Around Leith, local groups sought specifically buses for north Leith Links, to the Western General Hospital and reinstatement of the 22. It appeared this would have to await tram Phase 2. But a service was announced from 11 September through the Links via Constitution St, swapping buses on Lochend Rd and those on Restalrig Rd; whilst the 34 now runs on Baltic St and Salamander Place instead of Constitution St, which the Tram team will  closed for some weeks. But Salamander Pl is has a poor road surface and dangerous turn. There are less frequent buses and slower journeys for some residents. The changes appear unpopular, having removed some direct access to Great Junction St, Waverley and Haymarket. The 42 was also withdrawn, though the southern part of the route is reallocated to an extended 12.
  • While all this was going on, Firstbus announced it had sold its interests in this part of Scotland to McGills. Again, this may well at least partly be a result of pressures facing Firstgroup across all its businesses. McGills is a growing operator, historically based in the west of Scotland. It’s quite a turnaround from the days when First was a major international transport operator, and represents a break with the long history of ‘Midland Bluebird’ ‘Eastern Scottish’ etc. Nevertheless, it seems McGills will continue using similar nomenclature.
  • Going West, we helped lovemybus at one if its many stalls for new university students (in this case in Glasgow, as circumstances required!), which was quite illuminating. The main focus was promoting uptake of the under-22s bus pass, but we learned:
    – There’s a lot of exchange students who are probably not eligible
    – A lot of students are over 22!
    – The great majority of students who come straight from school in Scotland already have the pass
    – Students really like buses!
  • Back in Edinburgh, the George Street project continues slowly. It appears the broad principles of affected bus routes are now agreed (i.e. buses operating north-south across George St, but not east-west along it).
The committee relies on you, the wider membership, as our eyes and ears. So make sure you let us know what’s happening on the ground in your area; we can’t rely on the print and social media alone! Three years have passed since EBUG was formally established. In that time, we’ve built a credible local presence, particularly a framework of policy positions which means we can respond to most, if not everything, that ‘events’ might throw up.
Do pass on this Bulletin to anyone interested and encourage like-minded bus users to join (the membership link is at the bottom of the email).

Your EBUG Committee