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


113 bus to get ‘every opportunity to prove its sustainability’

The good people behind RELBUS recently wrote to Lothian Bus with a number of concerns over the new 113 route to Ormiston & Pencaitland.

The good people behind RELBUS recently wrote to Lothian Bus with a number of concerns over the new 113 route to Ormiston & Pencaitland.

RELBUS contacted Lothian Bus with questions over the new 113 service to Ormiston and Pencaitland. Image Rob McDougall

Rural East Lothian Bus Users wrote to the bus company welcoming the new service but sought reassurance on a number of issues. RELBUS was curious exactly why it was deemed necessary to create the East Lothian Buses brand, discovering that:

“The operating name of ELB is a trading name to reflect the operating area of this service and hopefully it will develop brand loyalty.”

RELBUS and a number of residents of the villages now on the 113 route had wondered if the brand was simply a means of differentiating the new fare structure which sees bus users living in Ormiston and Pencaitland paying £1.50 more per day ticket than people traveling between Tranent and Edinburgh. Could it also make it easier for Lothian Bus to walk away from the route in the future?

“It is not our intention to instigate the 113 on such a short term basis that it will not be given every opportunity to prove its sustainability as you fear based on previous experience with other operators.”

On the positive side, as a trading name, and not a separately run subsidiary, this would suggest running costs will be shared across the whole of Lothian Bus’s business.

Fare structure was another key concern. Distances between Edinburgh city centre and Pencaitland/Ormiston are roughly the same to distances between routes from the city to towns and villages in Mid Lothian operated by Lothian Bus. The company said:

“Regarding the fare structure this is a wholly commercial decision and is intended to make the service viable allowing for the low passenger volumes beyond Tranent. While the fares are higher than on our main network they are still some 33 percent lower than those of the previous operator and, in addition, allow travelers to access our full network without additional cost which would, in fact, have been an additional cost beyond the present discount.”

However, this does miss the argument that creating a price differential over this relatively short further stretch from Tranent may discourage people from Pencaitland and Ormiston from using the bus. Instead, people may opt to drive their cars to Tranent, park in suburban side streets and catch the bus into town from there.

As RELBUS points out:

“The benefits of single fare structures are very clear where these operate. It should be remembered that the benefits are extended not just to the residents of the rural communities served, but to those who wish to travel there to see friends or enjoy the countryside. Or indeed so that carers can reach their destination.”

If you have used/are using the new 113 bus service please let us know what you think of it so far and leave a comment below.

BUS SURVEY:

Pencaitland has joined forces with Humbie, East & West Saltoun and Bolton, Gifford and Ormiston Community Councils to find out what you want from the bus service. Register your views online now.

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RELBUS proposes bus users charter for East Lothian

Rural East Lothian Bus Users is seeking bus users’ views for an East Lothian Bus Passenger Charter. What would you like to see in it?

RELBUS, short for Rural East Lothian Bus Users, is seeking the views of bus users in developing an East Lothian Bus Passenger Charter. Got ideas on what you’d like to see in it?

RELBUS proposes bus passenger charter - click to give your views

The Bus Passenger Charter would be a list of commitments that each bus operator would attempt to meet. RELBUS are suggesting the commitments would cover at minimum fare structure, timetables and route information, plus related publicity material including information at bus stops and on buses.

But RELBUS suggest it could go beyond the basics to include commitments to accessibility and possibly a set of standards of service such as, for example, punctuality over and above any statutory obligations. Changes to timetables might also involve prior passenger consultation.

As RELBUS’s Philip Immirzi explains, “We aren’t starting from a completely blank sheet, as I found this over at the Bus Users UK website, but what do others think should be in the East Lothian Bus Passenger Charter?”

If you would like to offer your own thoughts, please visit the RELBUS website and leave your comments.

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The clash of profit-driven bus routes v local public service

Local man Barry Hutton, recently wrote a comment for ‘Local Transport Today’ with the title “Bus services can be profitable, or policy tools, but not both”. Given the recent brouhaha on our buses in East Lothian we’re reproducing his piece below.

Local man Barry Hutton, recently wrote a comment for ‘Local Transport Today‘ with the title “Bus services can be profitable, or policy tools, but not both”. Given the recent brouhaha on our buses in East Lothian we’re reproducing his piece below.

Detailed analysis of Your report that East Lothian Council is considering setting up an arms-length company to operate bus services to replace those being withdrawn by FirstBus hides fundamental discontinuities between government policy and transport planning practice that are far from being confined to East Lothian. The Scottish Government, in common with the English, has adopted policies on climate change, on reducing CO2, on reducing car traffic and on tackling congestion, policies which rest in large part upon greater use of public transport. Those policies are echoed in the statutory Lothians Structure Plan, in the East Lothian Local Plan and by the South-east Scotland Transport Partnership.

A major issue at the Public Inquiry into the East Lothian Local Plan was a proposal to build upwards of 750 houses on the western flank of Haddington, the administrative centre of East Lothian, about 25km to the east of Edinburgh. This would swell the town’s population of 8,800 by about 25% and generate around an extra 2,000 journey-to-work/school trips per day.

Continue reading “The clash of profit-driven bus routes v local public service”

Rural East Lothian Bus Users Public Meeting

You are invited to attend a public meeting organised by RELBUS – Rural East Lothian Bus Users – to be held in Haddington Town House  on Wednesday 31st August at 7.00 pm.
The meeting will :
  • Gather information on local concerns regarding public bus services in the Haddington area
  • Bring all comments to the notice of the bus operator
  • Ensure the involvement of the relevant local and national authorities
 further information from   info@relbus.org.uk   16, West Port, Dunbar EH42 1BU

RELBUS formed in November 2010, following cuts to First Bus services between Dunbar/East Linton/Edinburgh.  The first public meeting took place in January and a committee was put in place.  The aim is to encourage bus travellers from all areas of East Lothian to join the campaign for better public transport links in the East of the County where fares are high and some services unreliable.