East Lothian Bus Forum tackles transport troubles

East Lothian has a chequered history when it comes to public transport policy. In an effort to foster joined up thinking the new transport Convenor Michael Veitch initiated the East Lothian Bus Forum.

East Lothian has a chequered history when it comes to public transport policy. In an effort to foster joined up thinking the new transport Convenor Michael Veitch initiated the East Lothian Bus Forum.

The new 113 single decker buses being operated by East Lothian Buses connects Pencaitland and Ormiston to Edinburgh.
The new 113 single deckers being operated by East Lothian Buses connects Pencaitland and Ormiston to Edinburgh.
The first meeting took place on the 27th of November. The intention is that meetings will be held regularly, bringing together bus users, operators and other interested parties.

The first meeting was very well attended with representatives from across the county, all the key operators and a number of ELC Councillors. A synopsis of the topics covered and who attended can be seen here.

Intrinsic to the launch of this new group was RELBUS, short for Rural East Lothian Bus Users. This is a campaigning body intent on helping to promote better bus services across the county. We would encourage bus users to join. Membership is free.


RELBUS launches consultation on East Lothian bus priorities

RELBUS, the group that campaigns for better rural buses in East Lothian, has launched a member consultation to help prioritise its campaigning objectives.

RELBUS is seeking bus user views on its campaign priorities
RELBUS is seeking bus user views on its campaign priorities
RELBUS, the group that campaigns for better rural buses in East Lothian, has launched a member consultation to help prioritise its campaigning objectives.

The nine point plan covers basic standards that should be expected for bus service information including bus stops; fairer fares; plainer ticketing, improved timetabling, better connecting services, and perhaps most importantly, decent complaints procedures.

If you are a bus user it’s your opportunity to have your views fed back into the way RELBUS is campaigning on your behalf. Becoming a member of RELBUS is free and open to anyone living in or travelling to and from East Lothian.

RELBUS aims to campaign to improve accessibility for all and seeks better promotion of buses as a viable and acceptable form of transport, rather than an option of last resort. RELBUS believes that the Council and bus companies servicing East Lothian can do more and that good consultation procedures could help to map out a far better future for rural bus users across the county. That’s also why RELBUS recently welcomed the creation of a Local Bus forum by East Lothian Councillor Michael Veitch.

Barry Turner, Chair of RELBUS said: “We are looking forward to developing a constructive dialogue with operators, East Lothian Council and Community Councils. For too long bus travel in rural areas has been seen as a last resort, rather than the preferred mode of transport. We’ve identified a good number of supply measures that could help increase demand, even in the current deregulated market. We will continue to work with others to identify novel means of supplementing rural bus services in order to meet a wider range of local needs”.

Taking part in the consultation

To have your say simply go to the RELBUS Consultation Questions and, if you have a view, leave your comment in the text box at the bottom of the page. In all there are nine consultation questions. This is notionally intended for existing members of RELBUS. Fortunately joining is free and takes no time to do. If you rely on buses in East Lothian it’s in your interests to join.

For more information visit the RELBUS website.

Background: What is RELBUS?

RELBUS (Rural East Lothian Bus Users) is a volunteer-led group set up to campaign for better rural transport in East Lothian. RELBUS is a membership organisation, which is free. It holds public forums, meetings with operators and has an ongoing dialogue with local politicians of all parties and the local authority. For more information about RELBUS contact info@relbus.org.uk


Have you considered car-pooling from Pencaitland?

With recent news about the closure of vital bus routes to Pencaitland and Ormiston you may be interested to know that there are still ways to get from A to B thanks to car pooling.

With recent news about the unwelcome closure of vital bus routes to Pencaitland and Ormiston this June, you may be interested to know that there are still ways to get from A to B thanks to car pooling.

Tripshare allows you to car pool with others whilst reducing costs, road traffic and pollution at the same time. Click to find out more.
Tripshare allows you to car pool with others whilst reducing costs, road traffic and pollution at the same time. Click to find out more.
Car pooling is the act of sharing a private car to get to a mutually agreed destination at a prearranged time. In a local context that might be car-sharing from Pencaitland to Tranent or Wallyford in the morning in order to catch public transport into town… and back again at the end of the workday. Alternatively it might be a commute directly to the city.

The advantages of this approach are pretty clear. A car with four seats fully utilised will spread the fuel costs amongst four people. It also means just one round trip compared to four separate cars on the roads, each with just one commuter.

It’s not only a more economical and social practice, it’s also much more environmentally aware, reducing unnecessary road trips and pollution.

You don’t have to own a car to participate. If you do have your own transport then you can arrange to take turns driving, thus using your car perhaps 75% less than before. This reduces wear and tear and, of course, fuel costs.

Interested? Then find out more about East Lothian’s very own TripShareEastLothian service.

As the website explains, “Tripshare has been created so that you may actively search for other members who are doing similar journeys at similar times. Tripshare has the capability of matching all types of journeys. This scheme will not only allow members to share car journeys if you wish, but also to choose to share taxi journeys, and to choose to cycle and walk together.”

The website costs nothing to use and forms part of the UK’s National liftshare network. It is restricted to people aged 18 and over.

PS – Do you already car-pool from Pencaitland or other villages in and around the area? Please tell us about it below and whether it’s been a success for you?

Pencaitland Community Council
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RELBUS calls on commuters to contact Council reps

RELBUS, short for Rural East Lothian Bus Users, is calling upon members to make personal representations to their elected representatives.

RELBUS, short for Rural East Lothian Bus Users, is calling upon members to make personal representations to their elected representatives.

RELBUS calls for bus users/members to make views known to elected reps

As a recent articles on the RELBUS website explains, “In the light of recent announcements we thought it would be a good idea to set out some of the steps we can all take to ensure the politicians and operators respond appropriately. We are encouraging all RELBUS members to make personal representations to elected members, your local councillors and community councillors. Get support from your MSP to urge Government to step in and support the transition to a new provider, but also to look again at the regulations.”

The story goes on to recommend:

  • The views of bus users are central to constructing a better service, so ask them how they propose to take bus users views into account.
  • It is inevitable that urgency pushes decision makers to replicate the existing setup – perhaps like for like or close to it. However the status quo is inadequate. It can only be a starting point not the end point.
  • There need to be better connections with rail services. One study in Dunbar showed that no passengers used the bus to get to the train station.
  • There need to be better connections between communities and services to ‘destinations’.
  • We need better quality and more reliable commuter services. These are clearly very important, but too often oversubscribed at peak times and over-provided when they demand is lower.
  • Improve the bus fleet. Smaller buses are better suited to small rural towns and connecting services. Greener buses are going to be less noisy and less polluting.
  • A not for profit company should be set up to run the services. The company should seek to provide a comprehensive public service.
  • Profits should be used to help keep the fleet clean and green, lower fares and rationalise them, devote sufficient resources to marketing and publicity and aim to increase patronage of the buses by residents, business, visitors and tourists.

Pencaitland Community Council
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East Lothian Courier seeks local views on axed bus routes

The weekly East Lothian Courier is seeking the views of people who will be directly affected by the cuts planned by First bus.

The East Lothian Courier newspaper is seeking the views of people in villages across the county who will be directly affected by the cuts planned by First bus this June.

Some of the growing list of comments on the East Lothian Courier's Facebook page.

Kirsty Gibbins, the paper’s Editor, wrote on it’s Facebook page, “We’d like to hear comments and views from people in East Lothian affected by the significant cuts to First bus services across the county from June 10. We will be running a selection of quotes from the public in the paper so please send your reaction/letters to kgibbins@eastlothiancourier.com with your name, age and home town/village attached.”

Pencaitland Community Council
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Evening News features story on axed buses

The Edinburgh Evening News did a follow up piece in today’s paper on axed bus routes which highlights just how much upset it will cause to rural residents of East Lothian.

The Edinburgh Evening News did a follow up piece on axed bus routes in today’s paper which highlights just how much upset it will cause to rural residents of East Lothian.

Bus users face misery as First axes vital services - click to read Evening News' story

However, in a small section marked ‘analysis’, the paper sought the ‘expert’ view of former Lothian buses chief Neil Renilson. He said, “The impact on the majority of passengers will be modest or slight, as most of the services being wound down parallelled Lothian Buses’ services, and I have no doubt that on the routes where First Group are simply copying Lothian’s services, Lothian will provide any extra seats needed.”

This so-called analysis totally omits the fact that Lothian buses do not operate competitive services to Ormiston, Pencaitland and other villages in East Lothian. Any axing of First’s services will leave villagers, without access to private transport, totally cut off.

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First bus slashes services again – route to be axed

If some bus users were under the impression there wasn’t a lot left to cut from the remaining routes operated by First… you’d be wrong! It seems the bus company plans a further round of route cuts in a few months which will lead to further misery for people lacking private transport in rural East Lothian. Worse still, it seems the Pencaitland route is heading for the terminal and it’s not the bus kind.

If some bus users were under the impression there wasn’t a lot left to cut from the remaining routes operated by First… you’d be wrong! It seems the bus company plans a further round of route cuts in a few months which will lead to further misery for people lacking private transport in rural East Lothian.

First kills bus route covering Pencaitland and Ormiston - click for the Edinburgh Evening News story

Members of the local community have been contacted by the Edinburgh Evening News tonight, seeking their views on an announcement from First that it intends to kill the existing bus route covering Pencaitland and Ormiston.

This development could not happen at a worse time for the current ELC administration as many community members have previously expressed frustration at the lack of action from the controlling SNP/Lib Dem alliance over poor public transport policy and implementation.

Look out for the full story in tomorrow’s paper or read it here.

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Council seeking your views on local transport

East Lothian Council is going through the process of updating its Local Transport Strategy (LTS) and wants to know the views of organisations and individuals.

East Lothian Council is going through the process of updating its Local Transport Strategy (LTS) and wants to know the views of organisations and individuals.

The original 2001 Local Transport Strategy document from ELC - click to view the PDF

The current LTS was published back in 2001 and is now being revised to try to reflect the changes that have taken place since then. You can influence this process by participating in this online consultation questionnaire.

The Council’s spokesman on transport issues is Barry Turner. He says, “Transport is fundamental to today’s society whether it is for work or leisure or the delivery of the goods and services. The Council’s ‘Contract with the People’ calls for a sensible transport strategy to meet these requirements but we also recognise that transport planning is not simply about choosing and developing different travel options but considering ways of reducing the overall need for travel.”

The Council has now produced a consultation paper which is seeking your views on the priorities, scope and content of an updated LTS based on the following questions:

• What are the priorities for transport you would like to see addressed?
• What are your aspirations for sustainable transport in East Lothian?
• What would encourage to you to walk and cycle more?
• What would encourage you to use public transport more?
• Do you agree that we need to reduce the overall need to travel?

Interestingly, as far back as 2004 Alastair Guild of the Rural Design Group consulted with the villagers in and around Pencaitland, putting together a “Pencaitland Statement” [PDF], which looked at the strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to wider village life from effective (or bad) planning and development.

One aspect picked up in this statement was Transport. The document states, “Traffic, and in particular the speed of traffic at the War Memorial and through the village and across the bridge seems to be another issue impacting on use and enjoyment of the public realm, and on feelings of safety. The responses make a number of suggestions for ways in which the situation might be improved.”

Under ‘Opportunities’ the 2004 statement says, “Measures are needed to control and reduce the speed and volume of traffic in, through and around the village, to extend the footpath from the bridge linking West and East Pencaitland as far as Limekilns and also to move the traffic lights further east. The condition of the kerbstone opposite the Church is evidence of the number of vehicles failing to negotiate the road safely. The removal of a length of indifferent but protected wall would improve safety for pedestrians and motorists alike.”

On public transport the 2004 statement adds, “The village would benefit from a faster, more direct bus service to Edinburgh and a more regular bus service to Haddington”.

So to help inform opinions, a consultation questionnaire is now online, together with the Council’s 2001 Local Transport Strategy [PDF] document. Give yourself between 10 and 20 minutes to complete the online questionnaire.

If you’d prefer a paper copy or have any other questions, you can email LTS@eastlothian.gov.uk. Please submit views by Wednesday 20 July 2011.

HAVE YOUR SAY

Have you got any views on transport? Fill in the above questionnaire and if you have a particular concern on some aspect of transport in either Pencaitland or East Lothian generally, please leave a comment below…

First buses changes fares

First Bus ups somes fares for East Lothian routes.

The Community Council recently received notice from Paul Thomas, the MD for First Scotland East Ltd., on the issue of bus fare changes. These have been in operation since the start of April 2011 and you can find details on the First Group website.

First Group changes prices on bus routes in East Lothian
As Paul Thomas explains, “We know no one likes it when fares go up and it is not a decision we take lightly – that is why we have worked to keep as many fares as possible at current levels.” He adds, “Like many businesses across the country, we are not immune to the realities of the unprecedented economic and operational environment we are currently working in. We have a duty to ensure we secure the future stability, sustainability and development of our business, which is vitally important for the local economy.

For anyone needing further information, the customer services line is 08708 72 72 71 which operated Monday to Friday, from 8am to 5pm.

RELATED LINKS

Anger at bus service cuts in East Lothian” – East Lothian News.