Proposals for an improved public transport system in Edinburgh

Posted: 6 July 2020 |

Changes to the way people travel around Edinburgh could be introduced through the reform of Edinburgh’s transport companies, according to proposals recently published.

Proposals for an improved public transport system in Edinburgh

Recommendations in the Reform of Transport Arm’s Length External Organisations report, which will be considered by the Policy and Sustainability Committee, have recognised the need to encourage the use of public transport to and around Edinburgh and the surrounding region by making it as accessible and connected as possible. A shift from car to sustainable public transport alternatives aims to help Edinburgh achieve its carbon neutral goals by 2030, managing the impact of rapid population growth and aligning with local and national sustainable travel policies.

Three options for the future operation of Lothian BusesEdinburgh Trams and Transport for Edinburgh were explored in the report, ranging from a ‘do nothing’ scenario to the creation of a single company to deliver all functions.

Once a preferred option has been agreed upon by councillors, the plan will be consulted on through discussion with the existing companies, the other councils in the Lothians and trade unions, alongside robust legal analysis.

The report noted that Edinburgh, like other cities, will experience significant change to employment, leisure, and wider activity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and new approaches to public transport will be central to the overall adaptation and renewal process.

Council Leader, Adam McVey, said: “This is about creating a sustainable, accessible and joined-up public transport system that is fit for the future. As we’ve experienced over recent months, and will continue to do so, our city, like others, is undergoing a significant period of change as a result of COVID-19, and we must adapt in response. We simply must change the way we move around the city if we are to meet our ambitious goals to become carbon neutral by 2030 and to create a fairer, more inclusive environment.

“We wholeheartedly appreciate the roles of both Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams in providing high quality, award-winning public transport and excellent customer service, and will always do everything we can to help our companies achieve that.”

Depute Leader, Cammy Day, added: “For the many employees across these companies who play such an important role in delivering essential services, particularly during the current COVID outbreak, I want to reassure them that these changes will not negatively impact on their jobs. Rather, as we lead the charge toward a zero-carbon future, we want to increase reliance on sustainable public transport, and as bus and tram use continues to grow, we’ll need more drivers and staff to run the companies.

“However, we can’t move forward with these aspirations as it stands – we know that the current structure has led to inefficiencies. Of course this will take time and a great deal of engagement and planning, but by driving better integration, ensuring improved governance and putting the needs of the public at the centre of public transport delivery, I know we can provide a system that future generations will thank us for.”

The report suggested that the current structure of ownership – shareholding, parent company and group of companies, all responsible for delivery of different aspects of the transport network – has led to inefficiencies and a lack of collaboration, hindering aspirations to provide joined-up travel options.

In order to improve upon the current model, officers have undertaken an analysis of the outcomes required from a public transport company structure and in light of these have considered three options. These are:

  • Do nothing: Leaving the existing corporate structure and agreements in place but looking to strengthen existing relationships between companies and the Council to deliver change
  • Do minimum: Retaining existing corporate structure or parts of it but reviewing Shareholder Agreements and Memorandum and Articles of Association to promote transport priorities of the Council and improve integration
  • Single company model: Creating a single company to deliver an integrated transport system. Owners of the company would provide strategic direction as well as exercising shareholder power to ensure accountability.

The single company model is being put forward as the preferred option and it is proposed that existing bus and tram services, as well as the city’s cycle hire scheme, would be maintained as separately branded divisions, while integrated back office functions would be delivered, along with potential senior management savings.