Following the announcement of a takeover of First Bus in East Lothian by new company East Coast Buses, (a subsidiary of Lothian Buses), Councillor Michael Veitch, Transport convenor for East Lothian Council, said:
“This should not only secure the future of the Dunbar and North Berwick corridors currently served by First, but will go further in creating an entirely new operation dedicated to serving our county. An integral part of this is the planned retention of the North Berwick and Musselburgh depots and their staff which is hugely welcome. This is a hugely significant development for East Lothian and secures vastly improved public transport provision for local people in the future.”
East Coast Buses Ltd will introduce the following services from 14 Aug 2016:
•107 – A new 60 minute timetable introduced 7 days a week (30 minute Mon-Fri peak). Buses run West End, Meadowbank, The Jewel, A1, Haddington and East Linton to Dunbar. This part-replaces First Service X6/106.
•124/X24 – A new 30 minute timetable introduced Monday to Saturday and 60 minute on Sundays. Buses run Semple Street, Meadowbank, Portobello, Musselburgh, Prestonpans, Longniddry, Aberlady, Gullane and Dirleton to North Berwick. Three morning and afternoon buses will run Limited Stop as X24. This part-replaces First Bus 124/X24.
•We will continue with the following commercial and school services:
•124 – 1x morning and 1x afternoon journey between Longniddry and Preston Lodge HS.
•125 – 2x morning and 2x afternoon journeys between Musselburgh and North Berwick HS.
•126 – 1x morning and 1x afternoon journey between Aberlady and North Berwick HS.
•127 – 1x morning and 1x afternoon journey between Longniddry and North Berwick HS.
A comprehensive marketing and communications plan will be put in place to prepare the new services for operation, including roadshows within the local communities. This work will be done in close co-operation with East Lothian Council.”
Having heard reassurances in the last few weeks that no one will be left high and dry when First’s buses are withdrawn from East Lothian in August, RELBUS is seeking your thoughts on how any new service can be an improvement over First’s.
We saw how other operators came to the rescue when First withdrew many services in 2012 and we have every confidence that this will happen again. The routes to North Berwick and Dunbar are key trunk services that are surely an attractive commercial proposition if organised efficiently and in line with passenger requirements. In this respect we would ask those who use the services now, or who might be tempted to do so in the future, to let us at RELBUS know if there are changes they would like to see any new operators introduce. We will pass this on once we know who might be operating the services. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The RELBUS committee met last week to discuss the implications of First withdrawing its bus services from the county. The meeting was attended by Iain Gray MSP and by Gavin Booth of Bus Users Scotland. The meeting heard that as yet there are no definite proposals for replacement services but it is understood that discussions are ongoing between the council and possible operators of both scheduled services and school buses. The meeting’s main concern was with the uncertainty on the part of users as to whether or not they will have a service after August 14th.
Councillor Michael Veitch, East Lothian Council Transport spokesperson gave RELBUS this reassurance after the meeting:
”The loss of any bus services in the region is always of concern, and especially in this case, the threat to the depots. That said, we are in a strong position because of the presence of several high quality bus operators in East Lothian, and I am very optimistic that the void left by First will be filled. Indeed, I am hopeful that the affected communities may end up with a significantly improved service.”
Iain Gray MSP commented after the meeting:
“I was able to report to RELBUS that I have spoken on a number of occasions to East Lothian Council and to Lothian Buses, to encourage discussions re replacing the services from which First are withdrawing. I have also spoken to First to encourage them to give maximum cooperation to any operator who might wish to take these routes over, and have received assurances that they will do so. I have also made clear to all concerned that the depots at Musselburgh and North Berwick and the staff facing redundancy should be part of any discussions about an alternative provider. I know that talks have been taking place, and like Cllr Veitch, I am optimistic that a solution can be found, and that it may even lead to an improvement in services for the communities affected.”
As reported in the East Lothian Courier, First Group is withdrawing all services from East Lothian this summer. Many people in the bus industry have been expecting this decision for some time, and it may prove positive in the long term for East Lothian as more local bus companies step in to fill the gaps in services with ones more suited to local needs.
This decision by First group comes as no surprise. We expected that when the Company was released from certain undertakings by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) it would want to seriously consider its position in East Lothian. RELBUS has been concerned for some time about First’s performance and reliability locally having received numerous representations from local users. East Lothian has unfortunately been the poor relation in First’s operations with many elderly buses that are not conducive to attracting or retaining passengers. Representations to the company have had little impact although a few newer buses have come into use recently which may have improved performance somewhat. There will be a RELBUS meeting shortly to discuss the implications of First’s announcement and we will work closely with East Lothian Council, with Bus Users Scotland and with other operators with a view to ensuring that First’s services are replaced with something which meets travel needs across East Lothian in an efficient, reliable and attractive manner.
The next RELBUS committee meeting will be at 7pm on Monday 11th April upstairs in the Haddington Town House. The following will be on the agenda:
– Report back on the meeting with representatives from East Riding of Yorkshire
– West Lothian Taxi Bus (no speaker but some publicity info to consider attached to this email)
– Items for Bus Forum
– Use of any funding we can obtain from the council
– North Berwick bus/rail connectivity
– Release of First from service obligations
All welcome. Please email email@example.com if you’d like to know more.