Bus passengers facing second ticket price hike inside a year

BUS passengers in the Capital are to be hit with a 10p hike in the price of a single ticket and a near-£100 jump in the cost of an annual Ridacard as Lothian Buses seeks to combat falling revenues.

The bus company has confirmed it will increase the price of adult single tickets to 1.20 and the cost of day tickets by 50p to 3 from January 18.

There will also be rises for other tickets, including an increase in the cost of an annual Ridacard from 444 to 540, as the firm looks to plug a financial black hole caused by falling passenger numbers and the cost of fuel.

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Lothian Buses said the decision was due to the current "economic and operational climate" and in response to fuel tax changes announced in Chancellor Alistair Darling's Pre-Budget Report.

The company had previously said that the Scottish Government was unlikely to adopt measures laid out by the Chancellor, which would have seen a reduction in fuel duties paid by bus firms.

Ian Craig, Lothian Buses' managing director, said: "Any kind of fare increase is regrettable. However, the current economic and operational climate we find ourselves in means we must look at generating sufficient revenue to balance our books."

Last month, Lothian Buses blamed a fresh round of cuts to services on "city-wide roadworks" and the economic downturn.

The decision to withdraw or cut back five more routes followed on from the scrapping of 11 routes the previous month, and passenger numbers are down seven per cent on last year.

The new fares come into force the same day as the most recently announced cuts are made to services, and follow a 10p rise in the price of a single ticket in April.

Councillor Mark McInnes, the city's Tory transport spokesman, said: "These are very large increases and I'm very disappointed that they have been brought in at a time when patronage is actually going down.

"I also think it's disappointing the Scottish Government has not passed on the fuel tax rebate which will benefit bus firms down south."

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The Rev. Jim Jack, minister at Duddingston Kirk, has spoken out against cuts to bus provision in Duddingston Village affecting his congregation.

He said: "If they are going to put up prices at least have a proper service. It is not a proper service when I am being told I can't get home from town after 8pm and there is no bus on a Sunday.

"My concern is that people are going to have to pay it and it is hitting the vulnerable and the weak."

Lothian Buses said that fares compare favourably with the cost of parking in the city centre, and the price of bus tickets in other UK cities – a day ticket in Glasgow costs 3.20, 4 in Aberdeen and 3.70 in Manchester.

Pilmar Smith, Lothian Buses' chairman, added: "We have always prided ourselves on being able to offer low fares to customers. Even with these fare increases, Lothian Buses continue to have some of the lowest bus fares in the UK."