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Lothian Buses

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SN55 BNV entering Princes St, 08 May 2013.JPG
Wright Eclipse Gemini bodied Volvo B7TL on route 44A entering Princes Street in May 2013
Parent Transport for Edinburgh (91%)
East Lothian Council
Midlothian Council
West Lothian Council
Founded 1919
Headquarters Edinburgh
Service area Edinburgh
East Lothian
Service type Bus services
Open top bus tours
Alliance Edinburgh Trams
Routes 56 (daytime) / 12 (night buses)
9 (East Coast Buses)
1 (Lothian Country)
Depots Longstone
Annandale Street
North Berwick
Fleet 721 (December 2014)
Annual ridership 120 million (December 2016)

Lothian Buses[1] is the largest municipal bus company in the United Kingdom.[2] The City of Edinburgh Council through Transport for Edinburgh owns 91%, and the remainder is owned by the East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian Councils.[3][4]

Lothian Buses operates the majority of bus services in Edinburgh, extending to outlying suburbs, Park and Rides, towns and villages in Edinburgh, East Lothian and Midlothian. Despite West Lothian Council having a shareholding, Lothian Buses operates no services in that district, with most provided by First Scotland East. The company also operates three Edinburgh Airport services (Airlink 100 and Skylink 200 and 300) and a night bus network, and owns the subsidiary companies East Coast Buses and Edinburgh Bus Tours.

The company operates three travel shops in Edinburgh city centre, and operates buses from five depots; Annandale Street, Longstone and Marine in Edinburgh and North Berwick and Musselburgh in East Lothian. There is also a driver training school and an engineering depot at Seafield.


Wright Eclipse Gemini bodied Volvo B9TL on route 23 on the corner of Market Street and The Mound in June 2010

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,[5] but the first motor buses had arrived in 1919.[6]

The tramway was closed between 1950 and 1956, after which the operation became the Edinburgh Corporation Transport Department.[7] In 1965, it purchased its first rear-engined double-decker bus, ESF801C, a Leyland Atlantean PDR1/1, which is currently preserved at the Scottish Vintage Bus Museum in Fife. Almost 600 buses were added to the fleet over the next 17 years.

In 1975 Edinburgh Corporation Transport was renamed Lothian Region Transport. In 2000, it was again renamed as Lothian Buses.[8]

On 15 August 2013, The City of Edinburgh Council announced the creation of Transport for Edinburgh, a new public body meant to oversee public transport in Edinburgh, including both buses and the new tram system. Transport convener for the City of 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".[9][10]


Lothian Buses have won several awards for their services to the Lothian region including Bus Operator of the Year in the 2007 UK Bus Awards,[11][12] and has subsequently been voted Public Transport Operator of the Year (Bus) at the 2008 National Transport Awards. When the company was cited for its substantial route development, 32% growth in passenger numbers since 1998 and £100 million investment in low-floor buses since 2000.[13]

Lothian Buses was voted Best UK Bus Company in 2002 and 2003,[14] and vehicles previously carried the wording Voted Scotland's Best Bus Company 2006 in a laurel wreath type logo near the fleetname.

In November 2011, the company won the Top City Operator of the Year award at the UK Bus Awards.[15]


Lothian Buses have operated a flat-fare system since March 2006.[16] Adult and child singles and day tickets, pre-paid multiple singles and 'Ridacards' are also available, with senior citizens travelling on free travel passes in line with the rest of Scotland. As of June 2017, an Adult single fare is £1.60, and a child fare costs 80p. An adult day ticket costs £4.00 and a child day ticket costs £2.00 since 19 April 2015.[17]

Fares are paid into a hopper, which automatically dumps the money into a vault which the driver has no access to; change is not given.[18]

The Lothian 'Ridacard' bus pass is a pre-paid plastic smartcard giving unlimited travel on regular daytime and night bus services, as well as Edinburgh Trams services.[19] It is purchased initially from a Transport for Edinburgh Travelshop, where the owner's picture is incorporated on the card to prevent misuse. Once purchased, the card can be placed onto an on-board reader, which reads the contactless chip in the smartcard. Cards can be credited for a weekly, 4 weekly or annual period. A warning is displayed on the last five days of validity. The card can then be topped up at Transport for Edinburgh Travelshops or Pay Point equipped retailers.[20]

Regular Lothian Bus services running within Edinburgh and the west of East Lothian operate a flat fare, but from Longniddry, Macmerry and Ormiston there is a zonal system with East Coast Buses having six zones.


Wright Eclipse Gemini bodied Volvo B7TL on route 3A with Club Class branding on Princes Street

In conjunction with management changes and route branding, the route network has undergone considerable change with the removal of several apparently confusing aspects such as letter suffixed routes and clockwise/anticlockwise circular services. Some services have been transferred to and re-routed via Princes Street from the parallel George Street in New Town, after the banning of cars from most of Princes Street and the closing of certain access points.[21]

The majority of the current network comprises through routes that pass through the city centre from opposing termini. Most services pass in part or in full along Princes Street, with Bristo Place and Leith Walk being the crossing points for the remaining cross city services. There also exists a northern and a southern semi-circle orbital routes, and a local loop in the Sighthill area.[22]

Many routes are contained within the Edinburgh conurbation, whereas others, most notably the 'playing card' branded routes, extend into surrounding areas, such as Penicuik, Tranent, Mayfield, Balerno and Edinburgh Airport.[23]

Double deck buses show an intermediate points display, as well as a final destination. The company's double decker buses are unique in Scotland in still displaying the destination at both the front and rear. In early mornings and late evenings, some services are curtailed to the city centre or to early termini, in the transition to the night bus service. In such cases, 'Part Route' is displayed in the intermediate display. Certain routes have all day short working termini, and minor diversions which are often indicated through the use of internal or external 'tram boards'.[24] Since 2006 double-deck deliveries feature a 'Route Diverted; intermediate display, used when road closures cause a service to be diverted from its normal route.

Night buses[edit]

Lothian Buses also operates a nightbus network. Ridership increased when the routes were re-numbered and re-routed to match daytime routes and increased in frequency. The operation of night buses provides a continuous 24-hour bus service to some areas of the city.[25] This ticket allows for unlimited travel all night on any night bus.[26]

From 5 November 2016, East Coast Buses introduced its own nightbus service under the NightHawk brand, to North Berwick and Dunbar.[27][28]


The previous company headquarters and engineering works in Shrub Hill, off Leith Walk, were sold in 1999 subject to planning permission, after being occupied by the company since 1871.[29] After repeated delays, controversies and a public inquiry,[30][31] in 2004, the site was sold to BL Developments for £12m so that the site could be developed flats and houses.[32][33] Lothian Buses also maintain three Travel Shops at Waverley Bridge, Hanover Street and Haymarket.[34].


Plaxton President bodied Dennis Trident 2 traversing a former Fastlink guided busway. The route is now a tram line for Edinburgh Trams

Lothian Buses' services have been integrated with Edinburgh Trams, since the trams commenced operation in 2014 – both are owned by the council, and Lothian Buses services interchange with the trams at various locations. The now closed guided busway element of Fastlink formed part of phase 1a of the tram permanent way.[35]


Alexander RH bodied Leyland Olympian in the final version of the traditional madder and white livery
Alexander Royal bodied Volvo Olympian painted in red and cream livery on route 15 in May 2009

Edinburgh Corporation and Lothian Buses have historically employed a high degree of standardisation of their service bus fleet, including the use of low-floor buses to facilitate maintenance savings. Lothian have never employed minibuses on their services, although some midibuses were used for a time. As at December 2014 the fleet consisted of 721 buses.[36]

Current vehicles[edit]

Twenty-eight Plaxton President Dennis Trident 2s were converted to open-top, all for use on tour and sightseeing operations. In August 2016, these were replaced by 31 Wright Eclipse Gemini 3 bodied Volvo B5TLs.[37][38]

All vehicles are fitted with internal and external CCTV cameras and cab radios, for passenger and driver safety,[39] bus lane enforcement and assisting the police,[40][41] although they have also been used in action against the company's own drivers.[42][43] In 2017 Lothian Buses introduced 6 Electric Buses for service 1. Which has 3-4 hours charging time. Another 5 New Electric, Quiet Buses will be added onto the route in 2018 which will make service 1 the first electric route in the city.

Preserved vehicles[edit]

Many vehicles previously used by Lothian Buses and its predecessors have been preserved (or are awaiting preservation) by various groups and societies. Several of the vehicles regularly appear at events, rallies and running days around the country.[44]

Main fleet liveries and route branding[edit]

A now withdrawn Leyland Olympian in traditional madder and white livery on Princes Street in 2006

Traditionally, Edinburgh Corporation, LRT and Lothian Buses had a livery of madder (a dark red) and white or cream, with matching madder leatherette seating. Some coach-seated Alexander RH bodied Leyland Olympians and Alexander Royale bodied Volvo Olympians were painted with red in place of the madder. When low floor disabled access vehicles were introduced in the late 1990s, they were given their own distinguishing "harlequin" livery. A tartan pattern was used on seat upholstry at this time, and the insides of the buses were coloured in bright blues and yellows. The last high step bus was removed from service by Lothian in the late 2000s, making the distinction irrelevant.

Lothian began to phase out the harlequin livery in May 2010, replacing it with a version of the traditional madder and white colour scheme updated to suit the lines of more modern buses. Branding was initially written as "" for a brief period. This logo was replaced with the "Transport for Edinburgh" roundel and the words "Lothian Buses" with the opening of Edinburgh Trams, but the rest of the livery remained the same. Gold was used instead of white on hybrid buses: 15 Alexander Dennis Enviro400 double deckers and 50 Volvo 7900 single deckers.

The shape of the modern, sweeping version of the madder and white livery was recognisable enough to be used with different colours; when East Lothian Buses (later Lothian Country Buses) was set up, their fleet used a version in green and beige (the colours of Scottish Midland Buses, which had once run similar routes before being absorbed by First).

Alexander Dennis Enviro400 hybrid at Tollcross in September 2011

The basic livery was again updated in December 2016, when a new, more angular, madder and white livery was introduced for a new batch of Wrightbus Gemini 3 double deckers, partly because the new buses had windows up the full length of the stairs, making the "sweeping" livery look awkward. This livery was again versatile and recognisable enough to use in other colours: the new East Coast Buses services used green and grey; Airlink was branded in blue and grey; the new Skylink 200 and 300 in blue and white and a new Lothian Country service to South Queensferry in green and beige.

Route branding[edit]

Route branding has been increasingly used by Lothian since the introduction of low floor vehicles. Route branding highlights the route of certain services making the buses easier to be spotted throughout Lothian. Since May 2010 the Harlequin livery used to identify low floor buses has started to be phased out, as the company is now a full low floor operation,[45] with a return to the traditional madder and white livery although the style has been altered slightly to suit the lines of modern buses. Each type of bus owned directly by Lothian Buses has had at least one of their type painted in the new livery.

In July 2011 Lothian Buses introduced 60 new double deck buses. These buses continued with the same madder red and white pattern on the outside of the bus but Lothian Buses changed the seats to a matching madder red colour.[45] They also changed the entrance to the bus to a more wooden effect. Routes 4, 5, 19, 23 and 27 were the first buses to receive this branding.

Penicuik City Link

Buses for routes 37, 47 and X47 between Edinburgh and Penicuik were branded as Penicuik City Link, with blue uppers and roofline, and the positions of the red and madder on the skirting transposed. In 2011, one of these buses was repainted into madder and white, with no roof colour. However, the other vehicles in Penicuik City Link colours were repainted into the new madder and white livery with a turquoise mint coloured roof and the name Pen-Y-Cog. This is to celebrate the history of the area as Pen-Y-Cog is the original name for Penicuik. These buses were de-branded in 2014 due to high fuel consumption of the B7TL's used and the 37/47/X37 is now worked by standards liveries Volvo B9TL's.

Playing cards theme

Four double decker routes using the low-floor scheme are, or have been, based on a playing card theme, with the symbol of the suit incorporating the route number;

  • Route 3/3A was, until September 2010, Club Class – across the City and Midlothian with extra yellow on the uppers and roofline and a black "club" symbol. Bus 720, formerly one of the "Club Class" branded buses, was repainted into the new madder and white livery with a yellow roof and "3 Connect" branding in spring 2010, and it was expected that this would replace the Club Class branding. However, in September 2010, it was announced that the 3 and 3A would be rebranded, using the same livery style as trialled on 720, as The Lady Victoria to honour Midlothian's mining heritage as the routes pass the Scottish Mining Museum based in the former Lady Victoria Colliery in Newtongrange.[46]
  • Route 26 was, until mid-2009, East to West Through the Heart of the City featuring red on the roofline, gold between the decks and a large heart with an arrow symbol.[47]
  • Route 31 was Ace of Spades – cutting across the city and Midlothian with orange uppers and roofline, and a black spade symbol, which was worn by buses 751–768. However, these buses have been repainted into madder and white with no route branding.[48]
  • Route 44 was Service with a Sparkle with black uppers and roofline and a yellow diamond symbol. This was superseded by a new branding, "The Mill Race", with pebble grey uppers and roofline, but was later removed due to the high fuel consumption of the long route diagram.[49]

Two single-deck routes also received branding based on the playing card theme, Route 29 was branded as The Best Deal (Volvos 136–150, red) and route 49 Leader of the Pack (Volvos 151–160 and 170, blue). Volvos 151–160 were repainted into a new branding for route 49, The Queen of Scots with 136–138 and 170 now repainted into standard madder and white. Meanwhile, Route 29 was rebranded as The Stock Brig until both of these routes commenced double decker operation in June 2014 and March 2015 respectively. The 29 has retained an orange roof but with no "Stock Brig" branding.

Connect branding

Mid 2009 saw the introduction of Connect branding,[50] with the first example being red-based 26 Connect: Clerwood, City Centre, Seton Sands / Tranent This supersedes the earlier playing card theme. The second example applies to new, buggy friendly vehicles on route 22, with the branding 22 Connect: Gyle + Edinburgh Park, City Centre, Ocean Terminal The base colour here is pink. A third example was applied to bus 720 on route 3, with the legend 3 Connect. The base colour here is yellow, and was applied together with a new interpretation of the classic madder and white livery. The 3 Connect branding was replaced by The Lady Victoria branding in October 2010.[46]

Zoom to the Zoo advertising
Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TL on route 26 Connect red livery with Zoom to the Zoo zebra advertising

In June 2009 Lothian Buses entered into a two-year deal with Edinburgh Zoo to create a fleet of ten vehicles carrying animal-themed advertising designs over Route 26 Connect branding.[51][52] Five variations exist, on two vehicles each:

  • "Glide to the antarctic - Pengiuns
  • "Trek to China - Panda's
  • "Hop to the Amazon - Frogs
  • "Cha Cha to Chile - Flamingos
  • "Swing into Africa - Chimpanzee

Now, the new 26 fleet has introduced some new advertising on the side of their buses including:

  • We come and Go - Chameleon
  • Sit back and relax - Panda
  • Travel with pride - Lion
  • Feeling Fabulous - Flamingo

There are more coming soon.


History of tour operations[edit]

Lothian Buses have operated city tours using white liveried coaches. Later, Leyland 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. An Edinburgh Classic Tour was set up in 1989 using open top Leyland Atlanteans, and later Leyland Olympians, which competed with Guide Friday.[53] 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. Lothian Buses also operated open top tours in Oxford (in conjunction with local operator Tappins) and Cambridge under the Classic Tour identity.

Edinburgh Bus Tours[edit]

Lothian tour buses (L-R): City Sightseeing, Mac Tours, Majestic Tour and Edinburgh Tour on Waverley Bridge
Open top AEC Routemaster on a Mac's Tours service in August 2010

Lothian Buses operate several open top double deck tour bus services under four distinct brands: City Sightseeing,[54] Edinburgh Tours,[55] Mac Tours[56] and The Majestic Tour.[57] The City Sightseeing tour is operated as a franchise of the City Sightseeing brand.[58] In 2013, all were brought under the control of one entity, Edinburgh Bus Tours,[59] although the separate trading names are retained.

City Sightseeing and Edinburgh Tours visit the Old Town, New Town, Calton Hill, Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle, albeit on slightly differing routes. The Majestic Tour operates a long loop from Holyrood and New Town, via the Royal Botanic Garden, to the coast at Ocean Terminal, the site of the former Royal Yacht Britannia.[58]

Until October 2016, Mac Tours operated between March and October only with AEC Routemaster buses in a dark red and cream livery, with See Edinburgh By Vintage Bus branding.[60][61] All other tours use Wright Eclipse Gemini 3 bodied Volvo B5LHs. For the City Sightseeing tours, the livery is red, for Edinburgh Tours the livery is yellow and green, and Majestic Tours use yellow and blue coloured vehicles.

Forth Tours[edit]

Since 2007 Mac Tours has operated a bus for Forth Tours providing departues from Waverley Bridge for their various tours and cruises of the Firth of Forth.[62] The bus used is a dedicated Plaxton President bodied Dennis Trident painted in a special yellow, blue and green Forth Tours livery.(XIL 1484).

Additional services[edit]


Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TL in Route 100 Airlink livery

Lothian Buses operates a dedicated limited stop service, route 100, to Edinburgh Airport from Waverley Bridge along Corstorphine Road. This service uses a dedicated fleet, special fares and its own web-site.

After the original Leyland Olympians in plain Airline blue, the later Scania OmniDekkas were replaced by new Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TLs in March 2010. The new vehicles included "E-leather" upholstery (a type of manmade composition leather made from recycled waste leather offcuts), power sockets, CCTV which enables passengers on the top deck to watch their luggage on the lower deck, LED lights and free wi-fi. The vehicles cost over £200,000 each, £30,000 more than standard vehicles, and carry a two-tone blue and red livery.[63] The previous Scanias carried a livery of white and light/dark blue, with orange detailing.

From July 30th Airlink started to accept contactless payments and started to use 15 brand new B5TL buses. Airlink has a new livery with a little map of where airlink goes on the side.

In 2015 Wright Eclipse Gemini 3 bodied Volvo B5TLs were introduced in a new blue and gold livery, the Volvo B9TLs being reassigned to East Coast Buses and Lothian Country services.[64]

In 2017 15 new Wright Eclipse Gemini 3 bodied Volvo B5TL buses were bought with the old buses being cascaded to Skylink 200.


On 23 April 2017 a second airport service, route 200, commenced operating under the Skylink brand from the Ocean Terminal.[65][66] On 1 October 2017, double deck buses will be introduced on route 200 and the existing route 35 has been relaunched as route 300.[67]

Park & Ride[edit]

Edinburgh has a network of existing and proposed park & ride sites.[68] Lothian buses serve the Hermiston, Ingliston, Sheriffhall, Straiton and Wallyford sites.[69]

East Coast Buses[edit]

Wright Eclipse bodied Volvo B7RLE in August 2013

In June 2012 Lothian Buses expanded into East Lothian with a new subsidiary Lothian Country Buses,[70] with the introduction of route 113 from Pencaitland to Edinburgh, replacing First Scotland East's route 44B following it withdrawing from the area.[71][72] Initially operated by existing Lothian buses, the service was later operated by five Wright Eclipse bodied Volvo B7RLEs and two Plaxton President bodied Dennis Trident 2s painted in a green and cream livery similar to that of the former Scottish Motor Traction/Eastern Scottish buses.[73] In September 2014, a second service commenced from Haddington to Edinburgh.[74]

In August 2016, the Musselburgh and North Berwick garages of First Scotland East were taken over by a new subsidiary of Lothian Buses named East Coast Buses.[75][76] From 23 April 2017, the two Lothian Country Buses routes were integrated into East Coast Buses.[77]

Lothian Country[edit]

In June 2017, a new subsidiary named Lothian Country commenced operating service 43 to South Queensferry after the previous operator Stagecoach East Scotland deemed the service not economically viable.[78]

Vehicle tracking[edit]

Lothian Buses are active members of the Bustracker system and are responsible for the funding of it as well as being partly responsible for the operation of it.[79] It operates by tracking the movements of buses; computers then relay this information to the designated bus tracker signs throughout the city giving real-time and more up-to-date information on when buses are due to the passengers.[80]

In December 2009, it was announced that following the success of Bustracker, an application had been developed for the iPhone that is similar to the way Bustracker works. It allows people to download an application to their iPhone that enables them to see where their nearest bus stop is and when the bus is due. Although not developed by Lothian Buses or The City of Edinburgh Council, the application has now won the backing of both companies.[81] My Bus Edinburgh is an application developed for the Android platform which is similar in functionality to the iPhone application. Like the iPhone application, this application is developed by an independent developer, backed by Lothian Buses and The City of Edinburgh Council, and is available free of charge.[82]

In August 2010, the company introduced an early running alarm system for drivers, which is linked into the automatic vehicle tracking system, and sounds an alarm and displays warning messages if the bus is running early.[83] This was as a result of the company being fined £10,500 by the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland, having been found to be running buses early. After a customer complaint, Vehicle and Operator Services Agency monitored services 4, 16, 27 and 45 in February 2010, and found that of 303 instances, 44 buses were running early, despite starting the route on time, while 20 were running late. The company's defence was that they had built in some running time to cope with the delays due to tram works, but in some places, these works had ended early. The Commissioner accepted this defence, and chose not to take action against the company's operating licence (which authorises a maximum of 700 vehicles). Instead the Commissioner imposed a fine set much lower than the legal maximum (calculated as £550 * 700 vehicles = £385,000)[84]

In popular culture[edit]

Since 2006, Lothian Buses Seafield depot has been used as the setting for the CBeebies programme Me Too! under the name of Riversea Buses. The company's staff also feature in the show. Of the firm's participation in the series, the company's then Chief executive officer Neil Renilson said "It's a good opportunity to keep public transport in the eye of the next generation of customers."[85]


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  76. ^ Lothian Buses subsidiary to take on First's East Lothian services Bus & Coach Professional 8 July 2016
  77. ^ Timetables & Fares from 23 April 2017 East Coast Buses
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  82. ^ "My Bus Edinburgh – Official – Android Apps on Google Play". Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  83. ^ "Drivers Get the Beep!". Lothian Buses. 26 August 2010. Archived from the original on 17 September 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2010. 
  84. ^ Office of the Traffic Commissioner (Scotland) (30 July 2010). "Lothian Buses fined £10,500 by Traffic Commissioner". Central Office of Information. Archived from the original on 17 September 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2010. 
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External links[edit]

Media related to Lothian Buses at Wikimedia Commons