Monday, 4 July 2016

The East Lothian Question [1]

The First Shall be Last
It is likely that the seeds of First Bus' decline in East Lothian were sown in the late 50s and early 60s. Bus passenger numbers were dwindling with the supremacy of the big nationalised companies being upheld by subsidy and the "regulated" regime of the Traffic Commissioners system. Any new entrant had to convince "the system" that there was a "need" for any new service.

So there weren't any.

Route reorganisation schemes (ScotMap) usually involved cut-backs and fare rises.

Eastern Scottish had near absolute domination of outer suburban Edinburgh, rural East Scotland and the whole of the Lothians.
There were express services to the big smoke ...
... and even suburban routes in Glasgow.
Eastern Scottish was a big company covering a huge area.
When fbb went a-courting his future Mrs in 1972, the Eastern Scottish buses that appeared in Glasgow all looked tired and un-cared for; many were second-hand and looked it. Clearly the company was struggling.

In simple terms, the rejigging of the Scottish Bus Group structure created smaller companies "ripe for privatisation" (maybe a better phrase would be "mouldy for privatisation"!!) and First ended up with Lothian and the Borders.

But the non-privatised Edinburgh Transport, rapidly renamed Lothan had expansive ideas.

fbb is no expert (Wha-a-a-at? An admission of non arrogance?) but it seemed to happen like this.

Edinburgh/Lothian, freed from its traditional constraints, began intruding on First's world. Improved services to Dalkeith and beyond ...
... competed head-to-head with the Aberdeen-based group. Likewide Penicuik (pronounced Penny Cook) "enjoyed" the services of both operators.
First made a half-hearted attempt to compete within the city of Edinburgh, but eventually lay down and died with barely a whimper. The Dalkieth and Penicuik corridors became (and still are) all Lothian.

Eastern Scottish to Rosewell ...
... is now Lothian Buses route 49.

Then, under the more thoughful Fearnley regime, First handed over their route 43 from Edinburgh to (South) Queensferry ...
... to Stagecoach who had a branded-vehicle launch ...
... complete with the obligatory piper with the Forth Bridge as a backdrop.
Instead of First's 20 minute frequency ...
... Stagecoach began with a doubling to every 10.
This proved a bit much and today's frequency is now every 15 minutes.
Incidentally, in case you are thinking of taking a service 40 to see the Bridge itself, the bus doesn't actually run alongside the River Forth.
By far the best way to enjoy this magnificent structure is on an Edinburgh Tour Bus from Waverley Bridge.
The tour takes you to the waterfront at Queensferry and you get a "wee sail" on the Forth Belle, under the bridge and to the Island of Inchcolm.
It will cost you £20 (£18 for the elderly) but it represents good value.

But tomorrow we move to East Lothian proper.

 Next East Lothian bus blog : Tuesday 5th July 


  1. Harry Barker's book on SMT/Eastern Scottish describes the Company's cavalier attitude tio reliablity in the 60s/70s- letting tours take priority over stage sevices, and a perennial vehicle shortage partly cused by accountants' insistence on withdrawing vehicles at particular times whether the operating side could manage without them or not.In fairness, however, Baillieston Garage which ran most of the East Glasgow services was particulrly bad; the rural opertioons on the Borders did tend to maintain higher standards.Edinburgh was omwhere in between. In 1960 Edinburgh (New St) had a 317-vehicle allocation, possibly the biggest in the UK; almost everything it ran has now vanished or has paased to non-First operators.

  2. Service NO40 has ALWAYS BEEN every 15mins off peak since it started a few years back. That Every 10mins as it states Commuting, was only ever at Peak times.