History of Lothian Buses

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Lothian Buses 598, a Dennis Trident with Plaxton President bodywork, operating route 25

Lothian Buses Plc is one of two municipal bus companies in Scotland (The other being DGC in Dumfries & Galloway)[1] and the largest provider of bus services in Edinburgh, Scotland. City of Edinburgh Council own 91% of the company with the remainder being owned by East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian councils. As well as serving Edinburgh, Lothian Buses also serve parts of East Lothian and Midlothian. The company is owned by all 4 councils and this has given rise to the slogan your locally owned buses although there are currently no services to West Lothian. Lothian Buses are registered in Annandale Street, Edinburgh as company number SC096849.[2]

Company history[edit]

A Lothian (Mac Tours) open top bus on a victory parade for Heart of Midlothian F.C.

The company can trace its history back to the Edinburgh Street Tramways Company of 1871, also involving at various times the tramway companies of Leith, Musselburgh and Edinburgh North. The City Council (Edinburgh Corporation Tramways Department) took over operation of the tramways in 1919, at which time most of the system was cable operated. Electrification of the tram network was completed in 1923, but the first motor buses had arrived in 1919. Tramway abandonment took place between 1950 and 1956, after which the operation became the Edinburgh Corporation Transport Department.

In 1975, under the local government reorganisation which followed the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, ownership of Edinburgh Corporation Transport passed to the Lothian Regional Council Department of Public Transport. The operation was duly renamed Lothian Regional Transport.

The Transport Act 1985 deregulated bus services in Great Britain and required that municipal bus operations be run as commercial companies rather than as public service departments. Therefore, on 26 October 1986 the operation became Lothian Region Transport plc, better known by its initials 'LRT', a company wholly owned by Lothian Regional Council.

On 1 April 1996 Lothian Regional Council was abolished. Although the then Conservative government had sought to have the company privatised, this was resisted by local politicians and ownership the company passed to the new City of Edinburgh Council and the three neighbouring councils. The LRT identity remained until January 2000, when the company was renamed Lothian Buses plc, the LRT logo changing to 'Lothian'.

Post deregulation Lothian experienced alternating periods of competition and stability with the other major bus operator in Edinburgh, First in Edinburgh (First), and its previous incarnations SMT/Eastern Scottish. During this time Lothian acquired a number of smaller Edinburgh operators. In 2001, Lothian alleged anti-competitive practises by First.[3][4] This claim was later rejected.[5] One lasting effect of competition was the extension of Lothian services beyond the City of Edinburgh boundaries, in response to incursion by Eastern into Edinburgh city services. However, Lothian subsequently withdrew from West Lothian, leaving this area to First. Withdrawal from this area and not the others that Lothian extended into has caused concern amongst residents who had experienced low fares and greater choice of services during the period when Lothian and Eastern Scottish were competing. Although its area is no longer served by Lothian Buses, West Lothian Council remains a shareholder of the company.[6]

Other operators such as Stagecoach Fife, E&M Horsburgh, Perryman's Buses and MacEwans also operate stage services into Edinburgh, but as these tend to be long-distance routes or subsidised local services they are not generally a competitive threat.

On 15 August 2013, Edinburgh Council announced the creation of Transport for Edinburgh, a new public body meant to oversee public transport in Edinburgh, including both busses and the new tram system. Transport convener for Edinburgh Council Lesley Hinds stated: "Our first priority will be integration between bus and tram services and we will have the executive directors of Lothian Buses on the board of the new organisation".[7]

Strikes[edit]

In 2005 the drivers of Lothian Buses plc staged official and wildcat strikes over pay.[8] In some cases this resulted in passengers being abandoned as buses were taken out of service by drivers.[9]

Fleet History[edit]

Lothian 857 (J857 TSC), An Alexander bodied Leyland Olympian in the last version of the traditional madder and white livery

Edinburgh Corporation and Lothian have historically employed a high degree of standardisation of their service bus fleet, to facilitate maintenance savings. Lothian have never employed minibuses on their services, although some midibuses were used for a time. Buses have generally been purchased new - very few secondhand vehicles have been operated.

Double-deckers have long made up the majority of the fleet. In the period immediately following the Second World War, the Guy Arab and Daimler CV-series were favoured, with a smaller number of AEC Regent III. Between 1952 and 1966 some 452 Leyland Titan PD2 and PD3 were delivered (notably including 300 PD2s with MCCW Orion bodies in 1954-56 for tram replacement). With the move to rear-engined double-deckers, 588 Leyland Atlantean with Alexander bodies joined the fleet between 1965 and 1981.

With the demise of the Atlantean, the standard bus was the Leyland Olympian double decker with Eastern Coach Works or Alexander RH-type bodies (296 between 1982 and 1993). After the purchase of Leyland Bus by Volvo, Lothian remained loyal to the Volvo Olympian chassis, taking 134 with Alexander RH and Royale type bodies between 1994 and 1997. These were the last step-entrance buses purchased. 95 years of continuous Leyland operation with Lothian and its predecessors ended on 14 March 2009 with the withdrawal of the last Leyland Olympians.

Subsequently, low floor double-deckers have been specified. Initially the Dennis Trident 2 was favoured, with 197 being purchased between 1999 and 2004, mostly with Plaxton President bodywork (including four built new as open-toppers), although the first five have Alexander ALX400 bodies. Six Volvo B7TL with Plaxton President bodies were purchased for comparison in 2000, along with a similar bus which had started life as a manufacturer's demonstrator, and between 2005 and 2007 a further 125 B7TLs were delivered with Wright Eclipse Gemini bodies. A Scania OmniDekka demonstrator was delivered in 2004 for long term evauation, and although it was subsequently returned to the manufacturer it did lead to the purchase of 15 Scania OmniCity in 2006-07. Since 2007 the Volvo B9TL with Wright Eclipse Gemini bodywork has been the standard double decker.

Post-war single-deckers comprised small batches of Guy Arab, Daimler CV-series, Crossley SD42, Bristol L-type, Leyland Royal Tiger and Olympic, and Albion Aberdonian. In 1959-60, some 100 Leyland Tiger Cubs with Weymann bodies were purchased to replace the assorted front engined single-deckers. In 1961 a solitary Leyland Leopard was delivered. This was number 101 (registered YSG101), which was notable as a very early example (in the UK) of a 36' long bus, for carrying the second ever example of Alexander's long-running Y-type body, and for being completed to an experimental standee layout with three sets of doors.

In 1966 the removal of disused railway bridges on Easter Road enabled the busy Leith circular services to be converted to double-deck operation. Many of the Tiger Cubs were sold to Ulsterbus, and the single-deck fleet declined markedly. No more large single-deckers were purchased until 1975, when twelve more Y-type Leopards (to a more conventional specification) were purchased, and ten 1974 Bedford YRTs with similar bodies to coach specification were downgraded to service buses after only 1 season. Twenty dual-door Leyland Nationals arrived in 1982-85, followed by 12 dual-door Leyland Lynx in 1991. Later, some reconditioned secondhand Leyland Nationals were purchased for use on tendered services. With the move to low-floor buses, 91 Dennis/Plaxton Super Pointer Dart were purchased in 2000-2003, followed by 70 Volvo B7RLE/Wright Eclipse Urban in 2004-2009. As a result of these purchases, the number of single deckers in the fleet has increased.

Minibuses and short wheelbase midibuses have not been used in large numbers by Lothian, although some midibuses had previously been used on less busy routes. Ten Seddon Pennine IV-236 were acquired in 1973. These were replaced by 18 Leyland Cubs with Duple Dominant Bus bodies in 1981, which in turn gave way to 12 9m Dennis Darts with Alexander Dash bodies in 1992. When the Darts were delivered they were the only non-Leyland vehicles in the fleet. In 2001 five of these Darts were sold to Yorkshire Traction. The ones that remained were gradually cascaded to the Mac Tours subsidiary until their replacement by six Optare Solo SRs in 2008.

From 1969 until 2001 Lothian favoured dual-door vehicles, which minimised loading times by allowing simultaneous boarding (at the front door) and alighting (from the rear door). With the exception of those bought for the Airlink service, all new double-deckers bought in this period had dual-doors, as did the Leyland National and Lynx saloons. However, in 2002 a decision was made to purchase single-door vehicles only, apparently to stop fraudulent lawsuits claiming that the driver closed the rear doors while they were exiting.[10] There is an ongoing programme of converting earlier low-floor dual-door vehicles to single door.

Until recently, Lothian and its predecessors operated a small coach fleet. Until 1976 most coaches were lightweight types (mainly Bedfords), but subsequently 10 Leyland Leopard, 14 Leyland Tiger and 7 Dennis Javelin were purchased up to 1999. An oddity (in that it was an import in what was at the time a 100% British fleet) was a Toyota Coaster minicoach, new in 1993. The coach operation was closed down in order to concentrate on stage services and the open top sightseeing tours.

Taxibus[edit]

Lothian Buses previously operated a taxibus service from Edinburgh Airport.[11] A subsidiary company of Lothian Buses, it was launched in December 2006 to exploit the gap in the airport transport market between conventional bus services and private hire taxis.[12] In September 2007 it was investigated by the Traffic Commissioner for selling illegal fares.[13] Despite this it was extended to serve Leith, Ocean Terminal and Cameron Toll from October 2007. The vehicles used were Ford Transits. However, in February 2009 it was announced that the operation was up for sale as it had been operating at a loss despite carrying over 88,000 passenger in 2008.[14] A buyer was not found and the operation was closed down in April 2009.[15]

Main fleet liveries & route branding[edit]

A now-withdrawn Leyland Olympian in traditional madder and white livery in 2006

Traditionally, Edinburgh Corporation, Lothian Regional Transport (LRT) and Lothian Buses had a livery of madder (a dark red) and cream (white), with matching madder leatherette seating. Some coach-seated Leyland Olympian / Alexander RH-types and Volvo Olympian / Alexander Royales had been painted in the same scheme, but with red in place of the madder. These vehicles are not branded for, but were typically found only on, routes 15/15A.

While Lothian had traditionally maintained a uniform livery for all buses, deliveries of low floor vehicles has seen a new standard livery introduced. Low floor vehicles have also seen route branding come to be increasingly used by Lothian. Route branding highlights the route of certain services making the buses easier to be spotted throughout Edinburgh and the Lothians.

In 1999-2000, a new "harlequin" livery was introduced for all new vehicle deliveries, comprising all-over white, with madder lower skirting with a thin red separating stripe and a red front-panel. Gold and madder overlapping diamonds were added to the rear quarters and the rear of the vehicle. The red front serves to distinguish approaching Lothian vehicles from the all-over white of First in Edinburgh. The livery was simplified in 2002 with the diamonds originating from a different position and no longer overlapping each other. This new livery was intended to highlight the low floor accessible nature of these buses and also benefits from being more durable than the madder paint through the life of the bus. the harlequin livery was not been retrospectively applied to older vehicles in the fleet, with the Alexander Royale bodied Olympians the last vehicles to be delivered in the traditional madder and white scheme and when these vehicles were withdrawn in 2009 this livery left the Lothian fleet also.

However it was announced in March 2010 that the traditional Madder Rose and White Livery was to be reintroduced across the 600 strong fleet.[16] The vehicles will be repainted as part of their ongoing maintenance, so the old "harlequin" livery will continue to be a common sight on Edinburgh's streets.

Originally, twelve buses had been branded for route 35 but in November 2007 a similar number of buses, ten ex-Airlink and two from the 2004 delivery of Tridents, were branded for the 35. This featured a purple circle with the name "Airport-Holyrood-Government Link" and a route description on the sides above the purple circle. Certain single deckers have extra branding promoting the Nightbus network.

From time to time, some buses will have wraparound advertising applied, either to the whole bus, an entire side or the entire rear of the bus. Ridacards are advertised on the entire side of older Olympians.

Previously, services 22 and 30 were branded but with the 22 converted to double-deck operation on 18 January 2009, this service lost the branding. The 30 also lost its branding, as the Dennis Darts used on it were replaced by cascaded Volvo B7RLE's from the 22 service.

History of tour operations[edit]

Lothian had operated city tours using white liveried coaches. Later, Atlanteans were employed in this same livery, with blinds for City Tour. These wore an updated version of the white livery with blue detailing after a short period.[17] An Edinburgh Classic Tour was set up in 1989 using open top Atlanteans, and later Olympians, which competed with Guide Friday. This was as a result of Guide Friday introducing competition on the city centre to Airport route. The buses wore a blue and white livery, each carrying a name e.g.Scottish Star, Lothian Star and Highland Star.[18][19] Lothian also operated open top tours in Oxford (in conjunction with local operator Tappins) and Cambridge under the Classic Tour identity.

In July 2000 Lothian became one of the first operators to join the City Sightseeing franchise model, re-branding and upgrading the Classic Tour. Lothian purchased the first purpose built low-floor open top buses,[20] in a tartan scheme with City Sightseeing fleetnames.[21] The Classic tour was completely transformed into the City Sightseeing red scheme by May 2001.[22] In May 2002 City Sightseeing acquired its biggest rival Guide Friday. This led to the Guide Friday Edinburgh fleet being absorbed into Lothian, leaving Lothian as the only tour operator in the city.

A special bus service has previously been run from George Street into Edinburgh Castle via The Mound. This service used at least two of the Dash bodied Darts, in a dedicated overall livery.[23]

References[edit]

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