Not a “Fare” Deal for Lothian

Last month, Lothian Buses introduced its latest round of fare increases along with alterations to services.

This is the latest in a series of increases which has seen the price of an adult ticket increase by 40% since 2008. 

This latest increase follows a number of decisions by the Scottish Government that have negatively impacted on Lothian Buses.  The operator acknowledged that the increases were, in part, down to Scottish Government cuts.

The main cut faced by the operator is to the Bus Service Operators Grant, a grant paid to help operators keep fares down and commercially unprofitable routes running.  This will be cut by 17% from next year.

This decision has been compounded by changes to the way that the level of grant is calculated.  From this year, the basis of the calculation will be the number of miles travelled rather that the volume of fuel consumed.  This change disadvantages urban areas where buses cover shorter distances but use fuel while negotiating city traffic.

A final major concern for bus operators is the level of funding for the concessionary scheme that sees over 60s travel for free.  Reports last week suggested that the scheme faces a funding shortfall which could see fares rise again in the future.

I am greatly concerned about the cumulative impact of these decisions on potential future fare rises and on commuters in low paid jobs.   It is commendable that Lothian Buses have made efforts to keep increases to a minimum but their hands have been tied by the Scottish Government’s approach.

These cuts are also hitting other providers with First announcing this week 200 redundancies in East and Mid Lothian and a loss of services that local residents rely on.

The Scottish Government should be supporting public transport to encourage people out of their cars but the  SNP’s approach to bus service funding undermines that goal.  The Transport Minister needs to act now.   Given the pressure on bus companies through the reduction in the BSOG, the financial pressure on concessionary travel funding and increasing fuel costs it was obvious that passengers would lose out.