Passengers clock up record number of bus trips

BUS passengers made a record 114 million trips on Lothian Buses last year – an increase of nearly six million on 2006.

It is the ninth year in a row the council-backed company has seen passenger numbers rise.

The firm today put its success down to more frequent services on the most popular routes and multi-million pound investment in its fleet and facilities.

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A MORI poll, commissioned by the company, found that 84 per cent of Edinburgh residents use buses and 76 per cent think the 1 single fare is value for money.

The latest passenger figures, which include projected numbers for the last two weeks of December, mean an average of 312,000 people a day are now using Lothian services. Neil Renilson, the company's chief executive, described the figures as "extremely encouraging".

He said: "Our passenger number increases year-on-year are amongst the best of any bus company in the UK. Our close relationship with the local authorities and their development of bus priority measures and initiatives such as park-and-ride go a long way to help us achieve this."

The growing popularity of the city's park-and-ride sites, along with increased facilities such as more low-floor access and CCTV cameras, have contributed to the increase in passenger numbers.

More frequent services on popular routes, such as those to the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters and Heriot-Watt University, are also behind the rise. Gavin Booth, chairman of passenger watchdog Bus Users UK, said: "The fact that Lothian Buses was named UK operator of the year is a reflection of how good a service it provides.

"In my role, I have the opportunity to travel around the country and try different bus services, and the only comparable cities are the likes of Brighton and Oxford.

"One of the big plus points for Lothian Buses is the investment it has put into its fleet: 85 new buses is very impressive. The fact they have easy, low-floor access will have a lot to do with the increase in passenger numbers."

In 1998, when it was known as Lothian Regional Transport, Lothian Buses – which is 91 per cent owned by the city council – was attracting 82 million passengers.

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Since then, over 100 million has been spent on new buses, including a 12.5m order in January last year for 75 new buses fitted with "green" technology that cuts nitrogen oxides by up to half – and a further 2m on ten new double-deckers for the Airlink express shuttle.

Councillor Phil Wheeler, the city's transport leader, said: "This is great news. It backs up recent statistics showing that Edinburgh has the best bus network outside of London. I am confident that these figures will continue to rise when buses are integrated with the trams system."

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