|Parent||Transport for Edinburgh (91%)|
Midlothian Council (5%)
East Lothian Council (3%)
West Lothian Council (1%)
|Founded||1 July 1919|
|Headquarters||55 Annandale Street |
|Service type||Bus services|
Open top bus tours
|Routes||56 (daytime) / 12 (night buses)|
9 (East Coast Buses)
9 (Lothian Country)
3 (Open-Top Tour)
1 (3 Bridges Tour)(Executive Tours)
Annandale Street (CE)
North Berwick (NB)
|Fleet||755 (July 2022)|
|Annual ridership||121 million (December 2017)|
|Chief executive||George Lowder|
Lothian Buses is the largest municipal bus company in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council (through Transport for Edinburgh) owns 91%, Midlothian Council 5%, East Lothian Council 3% and West Lothian Council 1%.
Lothian operates the majority of bus services in Edinburgh, and is a significant operator in East Lothian, Midlothian and most recently West Lothian. It operates a comprehensive night bus network, four Edinburgh Airport services and owns the subsidiary companies Lothian Country, East Coast Buses, Edinburgh Bus Tours and Lothian Motorcoaches.
Main article: History of Lothian Buses
The company can trace its history back to the Edinburgh Street Tramways Company of 1871, also involving at various times the tramway companies of Leith, Musselburgh and Edinburgh North. The City Council (Edinburgh Corporation Tramways Department) took over operation of the tramways in 1919, at which time most of the system was cable operated. Electrification of the tram network was completed in 1923, but the first motor buses had arrived in 1919.
The city's trams ceased operation between 1950 and 1956, after which the operation became the Edinburgh Corporation Transport Department. In 1965, it purchased its first rear-engined double-decker bus, a Leyland Atlantean PDR1/1 (registration ESF 801C). This bus is currently preserved at the Scottish Vintage Bus Museum. Almost 600 buses were added to the fleet over the next 17 years.
Following local government reorganisation, Edinburgh Corporation Transport was renamed Lothian Region Transport on 16 May 1975. In January 2000, it was again renamed as Lothian Buses.
Lothian Buses have won several awards for their services to the Lothian region including Bus Operator of the Year in the 2007 UK Bus Awards, and has subsequently been voted Public Transport Operator of the Year (Bus) at the 2008 National Transport Awards. When the company was cited for its substantial route development, 32% growth in passenger numbers since 1998 and £100 million investment in low-floor buses since 2000.
Lothian Buses was voted Best UK Bus Company in 2002 and 2003, and vehicles previously carried the wording Voted Scotland's Best Bus Company 2006 in a laurel wreath type logo near the fleetname.
In November 2011, the company won the Top City Operator of the Year award at the UK Bus Awards.
Lothian Buses have operated a flat-fare system since March 2006. Adult and child singles and day tickets, pre-paid multiple singles and 'Ridacards' are also available, with senior citizens travelling on free travel passes in line with the rest of Scotland. As of February 2020[update], an adult single fare is £1.80 and a child fare costs 90p. An adult day ticket costs £4.50 and a child day ticket £2.50.
Fares are paid into a hopper, which automatically dumps the money into a vault to which the driver has no access; change is not given.
The Lothian 'Ridacard' bus pass is a pre-paid plastic smartcard giving unlimited travel on regular daytime and night bus services, as well as Edinburgh Trams services. It is purchased initially from a Transport for Edinburgh Travelshop, where the owner's picture is incorporated on the card to prevent misuse. Once purchased, the card can be placed onto an on-board reader, which reads the contactless chip in the smartcard. Cards can be credited for a weekly, 4 weekly or annual period. A warning is displayed on the last five days of validity. The card can then be topped up at Transport for Edinburgh Travelshops or PayPoint equipped retailers.
Lothian Buses launched contactless payment on their normal day network in 2019. Passengers can tap their contactless card to be able to travel when they board the bus. Daily capping is provided so that the passenger is only charged the maximum value of a day ticket if they make three or more journeys in one day. Otherwise they will be charged an adult single. Passengers can view their journey history by going to Lothian's website.
Regular Lothian Bus services running within Edinburgh and the west of East Lothian operate a flat fare, but from Longniddry, Macmerry and Ormiston there is a zonal system with East Coast Buses having six zones.
Lothian-branded services are the core of the Lothian Buses group. There are some core services in the Lothian network that have followed more or less the same route since they were operated by trams in the 1950s, like services 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 and 16. However, the routes and timetables of most services are frequently modified in minor ways. For example, in recent years several confusing details such as letter suffixed routes and clockwise/anticlockwise circular services have been removed from the map. In the last ten years, there have been many temporary and permanent diversions in the New Town, including the closure at various times of Princes Street for tram works, George Street for pedestrianisation and Leith Street for the reconstruction of the St James Centre.
The majority of current routes pass through the city centre from opposing termini, either crossing or following Princes Street in full or in part. This means that there are some arteries in and out of the New Town that are served by as many as a dozen different routes, such as Nicolson Street and Leith Walk. Some of these services, like services 3, 26 and 37, extend into outlying towns in East and Midlothian. There are also some more orbital routes, such as service 38.
Traditionally, Edinburgh Corporation, LRT and Lothian Buses had been generally painted in a madder (a dark red) and cream (or white) livery. When low floor disabled access vehicles were introduced in the late 1990s, they were given their own distinguishing "harlequin" livery, moquette covered seating and brightly coloured floors and walls. The last high step bus was removed from service by Lothian in the late 2000s, making the distinction irrelevant.
Lothian began to phase out the harlequin livery in May 2010, replacing it with a version of the traditional madder and white colour scheme. This had sweeping curved lines, having been updated to suit the body shapes of more modern buses. The last harlequin bus was repainted in 2016.
In late 2016 a new livery, known as the fleet of the future livery, was unveiled on a batch of new Wright Gemini 3 Streetdeck style buses, for route 22. The angular shape and style of this livery was a complete departure from anything Lothian had designed before, and as of 2021 is the standard livery for all new vehicles. The livery underwent a minor adjustment when a fleet of new Alexander Dennis Enviro400 XLBs were put into service in 2019, with smoother curves and a lack of a smaller 'cheatline' on the bus's lower sides. While the Enviro400 XLBs carried the coat of arms of the city of Edinburgh on each side, every batch of vehicles bought thereafter have not had the same coat of arms added.
Lothian directly operates four services to Edinburgh Airport; Airlink 100, Skylink 200, Skylink 300 and Skylink 400. This is in addition to the service provided by Edinburgh Trams, which has one of its termini at the airport. All Lothian airport services use special airport fare zones, meaning a single ticket to the airport costs significantly more than the standard single ticket. However, a journey that does not include the airport zone is charged at the standard fare.
Airlink 100 runs to Waverley Bridge along Corstorphine Road. Since 30 July 2017, Airlink has accepted contactless card payments as well as cash and ridacard fares.
Skylink Services also accept Contactless, beginning with purchase of normal tickets but now works with the "Tap Tap Cap..." scheme.
Skylink 200 commenced on 23 April 2017, running from the airport to the north of Edinburgh, terminating at Ocean Terminal. It was initially operated by single decker buses, but double deckers have been used since 1 October 2017.
Skylink 300 commenced on 1 October 2017, as an upgrade and renumbering of the old service 35, which ran from the airport to the Ocean Terminal via Slateford, Longstone and South Gyle. The 35 had been a way of getting to the airport while only paying the standard Lothian fare, and usually used repainted ex-Airlink vehicles with extra luggage racks. The route was amended on 29 July 2018, shortening the route considerably and introducing a new terminal at Cameron Toll. At the same time, a modified 35 was reintroduced, but this service terminated at Heriot-Watt University rather than the airport.
Skylink 400 commenced on 29 July 2018 operating to Fort Kinnaird via Gracemount, Fairmilehead, Oxgangs and Colinton. It replaced and upgraded the old service 18.
Between June 2021 and March 2022, Skylink services 200, 300, and 400 were adjusted to call at the Royal Highland Centre, which was in use as a vaccination centre during the COVID-19 pandemic. These services were reverted to their original routings when the centre closed in March 2022.
Airlink 100 was originally branded as "Airline", and has used many different liveries and logos, though all have been primarily blue. Airlink buses are always new when they start on the service, and are cascaded to other services after a few years. Over the years, the service has used the Leyland Olympian, Scania Omnicity, Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 and the Wright Eclipse Gemini 3. Between June 2017 and August 2019 the Airlink service used a light blue and grey version of the standard angular livery. These vehicles have since moved onto Skylink, still with the light blue livery. other Skylink services use a medium blue and white version of the angular livery. From August 2019, Enviro400 XLBs have been introduced on the Airlink Service, with a dark blue plain livery with a large gold Airlink logo on both sides.
In summer 2012, First Scotland East withdrew route 44B from Edinburgh to Pencaitland. This prompted Lothian Buses to expand into East Lothian much further than they had for years; far past the Tranent terminus of the service 26. Operations were initially branded as East Lothian Buses, and service 113 launched on 12 June 2012. A second service was added in September 2014 (the 104 to Haddington). The brand name was changed to Lothian Country Buses. One reason for launching as a separate brand was to make it easier to introduce a zonal fare system, rather than the flat fare of Lothian Buses.
First Scotland East announced in June 2016 that they would be withdrawing entirely from East Lothian by 14 August, believing the county to be unprofitable. Lothian later announced the creation of a wholly owned subsidiary company, East Coast Buses, to again fill the gap left by First. The new company also took over the former First depots at North Berwick and Musselburgh, and took on many former First staff. From 23 April 2017, the two Lothian Country Buses routes were integrated into East Coast Buses.
East Lothian Buses services were initially operated by existing Lothian vehicles. The service was later operated by five Wright Eclipse bodied Volvo B7RLEs and two Plaxton President bodied Dennis Trident 2s. The East Lothian Buses/Lothian Country Buses livery was a version of the standard Lothian design featuring sweeping curved lines in bright green and cream, similar to the livery of the former Scottish Motor Traction/Eastern Scottish buses. East Coast Buses uses a version of the more recent, angular Lothian design, in green and grey (though the ECB green is slightly bluer than that formerly used by LCB).
In June 2017, a new subsidiary named Lothian Country commenced operating route 43 to South Queensferry after the previous operator Stagecoach East Scotland deemed the service not economically viable. This new operation re-used the recently defunct Lothian Country Buses brand, for unrelated services travelling the opposite direction out of the city.
On 19 August 2018, three new routes to West Lothian commenced creating new links between Edinburgh and Bathgate, and Edinburgh Park station and Whitburn. On 29 September 2018, services 280 and 287 were launched linking Livingston with Bathgate, Armadale and Blackridge, on 2 December 2018, Lothian Country introduced the X18 another express route from Edinburgh to Armadale via Broxburn and Bathgate and the Night service N28 replicating the X27 route as far as Deans South, on 31 March 2019 service 281 was launched linking Loganlea and West Calder with Deans North which was later withdrawn the same year, on 13 May 2019 service X17 was launched connecting Edinburgh City Centre with Fauldhouse, Loganlea and West Calder and on 17 November 2019 service X38 was launched connecting Edinburgh to Linlithgow rivalling First Scotland East's service with the same number.
As of 31 May 2021, the 287 was withdrawn and replaced by an extension of the 275 which currently run the same route to Bathgate from Livingston, with the X27 replacing the section between Livingston and Whitburn. the X18 was later also extended from Armadale to Whitburn, The X17 was renumbered the 276 and cut from the City Centre running as far as Broxburn on the East but was extended to Bathgate connecting West Calder and Loganlea with Bathgate, however the Fauldhouse section was withdrawn. the 281 which was withdrawn late 2019 was brought back a year later running between Livingston and Fauldhouse, running the same route as the 280 as far as Bathgate and then replicating First Scotland East's 26 service to Fauldhouse. The X38/EX2 was temporarily suspended in March 2020 and later withdrawn leaving both Kirkliston and Linlithgow out of the Lothian network.
Main article: History of Lothian Buses
Lothian Buses have operated city tours using white liveried coaches. Later, Leyland Atlanteans were employed in this same livery, with blinds for City Tour. These wore an updated version of the white livery with blue detailing after a short period. An Edinburgh Classic Tour was set up in 1989 using open top Leyland Atlanteans, and later Leyland Olympians, which competed with Guide Friday. This was as a result of Guide Friday introducing competition on the city centre to Airport route. The buses wore a blue and white livery, each carrying a name e.g. Scottish Star, Lothian Star and Highland Star. Lothian Buses also operated open top tours in Oxford (in conjunction with local operator Tappins) and Cambridge under the Classic Tour identity.
From 2002 to 2016, a sightseeing operation named MacTours operated across Edinburgh between March and October, using a fleet of 12 AEC Routemaster buses painted in a dark red and cream livery. These were withdrawn in November 2016 due to changing environmental standards and disabled access requirements.
Today's open-top services are operated by Edinburgh Bus Tours under four distinct brands: City Sightseeing, the Edinburgh Tour, the Majestic Tour and the 3 Bridges Tour. The City Sightseeing tour is operated as a franchise of the City Sightseeing brand.
City Sightseeing and the Edinburgh Tour visit the Old Town, New Town, Calton Hill, Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle, albeit on slightly differing routes. The Majestic Tour operates a long loop from Holyrood and New Town, via the Royal Botanic Garden, to the coast at Ocean Terminal, the site of the former Royal Yacht Britannia. The 3 Bridges Tour operates from the city centre to the Firth of Forth via Blackness Castle and the village of Limekilns, connecting for the Three Bridges Cruise operated by Forth Boat Tours.
All sightseeing services, with the exception of the 3 Bridges Tour, are operated with 30 purpose-built Wright Gemini 3 bodied Volvo B5TL open top buses, which replaced Plaxton President bodied Dennis Tridents in 2016. For the City Sightseeing tours, the livery is red, for Edinburgh Tours the livery is yellow and green, and Majestic Tours use yellow and blue coloured vehicles.
Between 4 August and 26 August 2018, Edinburgh Bus Tours operated the '20 Days Of Summer' bus tour, serving destinations around Edinburgh such as the Braid Hills, Colinton, Fettes College, the Ocean Terminal and Portobello using a fleet of refurbished former Mac Tours AEC Routemasters.
On 2 April 2022, Edinburgh Bus Tours launched Cobbles' Tour, named after the Edinburgh Tour's Scottish Terrier mascot 'Cobbles'. The service, which operates using five Volvo B5TL Wright Gemini 3s cascaded from the other open-top operations, serves the Grassmarket, Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile at a fifteen-minute frequency.
In June 2018, Lothian returned to the coach charter market after a 19-year absence through a new subsidiary named Lothian Motorcoaches that commenced with five Plaxton Panther bodied Volvo B11Rs and three-second-hand Van Hool bodied Volvo B12MTs. A new depot is being built for Lothian Country and Lothian Motorcoaches in the Newbridge area. The design of the livery used by Lothian Motorcoaches was not related to the other brands of the group, being entirely dark grey with silver lettering, although the Airlink service is now operated with dark-blue Enviro400 XLBs, in a font similar to the Motorcoaches brand.
Lothian Buses also operates a nightbus network. Ridership increased when the routes were re-numbered and re-routed to match daytime routes and increased in frequency. The operation of night buses provides a continuous 24-hour bus service to some areas of the city. This ticket allows for unlimited travel all night on any night bus. From 5 November 2016, East Coast Buses introduced its own nightbus service under the NightHawk brand, to North Berwick and Dunbar. In December 2018, Lothian Country introduced the Nightbus N28 to Livingston.
The previous company headquarters and engineering works in Shrub Hill, off Leith Walk, were sold in 1999 subject to planning permission, after being occupied by the company since 1871. After repeated delays, controversies and a public inquiry, in 2004, the site was sold to BL Developments for £12 million so that the site could be developed flats and houses.
The company as a whole operates three travel shops, six depots (Annandale Street, Longstone and Marine in Edinburgh and North Berwick and Musselburgh in East Lothian) and Livingston in West Lothian. There is also a driver training school and an engineering depot at Seafield.
Edinburgh has a network of park & ride services operates by Lothian Buses, with sites located at Hermiston, Ingliston, Sheriffhall, Straiton and Wallyford.
Lothian's double decker buses were unique in Scotland in displaying the destination at both the front and rear. In early mornings and late evenings, some services are curtailed to the city centre or to early termini, in the transition to the night bus service. In such cases, 'Part Route' is displayed in the intermediate display. Certain routes have all day short working termini, and minor diversions which are often indicated through the use of internal or external 'tram boards'. Since 2006 double-deck deliveries feature a 'Route Diverted; intermediate display, used when road closures cause a service to be diverted from its normal route.
Main article: Edinburgh Trams
Lothian Buses' services have been integrated with Edinburgh Trams, since the trams commenced operation in 2014 – both are managed by Transport for Edinburgh, with Lothian Buses serving interchange with the trams at various locations. The now closed guided busway element of Fastlink formed part of phase 1a of the tram permanent way.
Main article: History of Lothian Buses
Edinburgh Corporation and Lothian Buses have historically employed a high degree of standardisation of their service bus fleet, including the use of low-floor buses to facilitate maintenance savings. Lothian have never employed minibuses on their services, although some midibuses were used for a time.[when?] As of December 2019, the Lothian fleet, including East Coast Buses, Lothian Country, the Edinburgh Tour and Lothian Motorcoaches, consisted of 900 buses.
Lothian first introduced low emissions vehicles in the form of hybrid buses into service in 2011 with the purchase of 15 Alexander Dennis Enviro400Hs; these were subsequently retrofitted with diesel engines in 2018 due to issues with the hybrid batteries. These were supplemented with the arrival of the first ten Volvo 7900Hs in April 2013, initially allocated to route 1 from Clermiston to Easter Road. 20 more of the type were delivered in July 2014, followed by the delivery of another repeat order for 20 at the end of the year.
In 2017, Lothian Buses introduced six Wright StreetAir battery electric buses for route 1, replacing the Volvo 7900Hs. Another five were planned to be purchased in 2018 to fully electrify the route, but the order did not materialise. These were later complemented by four Alexander Dennis Enviro400 EVs in March 2021, purchased with funding by Scottish Power and the first battery electric double-decker buses to be purchased for Edinburgh.
Historically Lothian has purchased new buses for its regular services across Edinburgh, however in 2018, the company purchased 50 Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TLs from Tower Transit and Metroline, which were heavily refurbished before the first of the batch entered service in April.
In November 2018, the company announced the purchase of 42 13.4m Alexander Dennis Enviro400 XLB bodied Volvo B8L tri-axle buses, the first batch being delivered in early 2019, in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the company. The vehicles have 100 seats, with front and centre doors. Another batch of these buses, branded in a dark blue and gold livery for the 'Airlink' 100 express service, were delivered and put into service later in the summer, featuring luggage racks and audio-visual announcements. These tri-axle vehicles have been criticised for lacking space to fit pushchairs, as well as their length causing near collisions with motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.
Main article: List of Lothian Buses preserved vehicles
Many vehicles previously used by Lothian Buses and its predecessors have been preserved (or are awaiting preservation) by various groups and societies. Several of the vehicles regularly appear at events, rallies and running days around Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
Route branding been used by Lothian since the introduction of low floor vehicles, although many liveries have now been phased out in favour of more uniform branding.
In 2010, the Harlequin livery used to identify low floor buses began to be phased out due to the company achieving full low-floor operation, with the company returning to their traditional madder and white livery.
In July 2011, Lothian Buses introduced 60 new double deck buses. These buses continued with the same madder red and white pattern on the outside of the bus but Lothian Buses changed the seats to a matching madder red colour. They also changed the entrance to the bus to a more wooden effect. Routes 4, 5, 19, 23 and 27 were the first buses to receive this branding.
These brands were:
Five variations exist, on two vehicles each:
In 2017, Lothian Buses' partnership with the Edinburgh Zoo was renewed, which saw 30 new buses receive livery designs featuring animals from the zoo including otters, penguins, koalas, red pandas and tigers. Colloquially known as "zoo buses", some of the animal designs appearing on these buses were decided by vote. A giraffe print design was added to the fleet in 2021 following the opening of the zoo's giraffe house.
Lothian Buses are active members of the Bustracker system and are responsible for the funding of it as well as being partly responsible for the operation of it. It operates by tracking the movements of buses; computers then relay this information to the designated bus tracker signs throughout the city giving real-time and more up-to-date information on when buses are due to the passengers.
In December 2009, it was announced that following the success of Bustracker, an application had been developed for the iPhone that is similar to the way Bustracker works. It allows people to download an application to their iPhone that enables them to see where their nearest bus stop is and when the bus is due. Although not developed by Lothian Buses or The City of Edinburgh Council, the application has now won the backing of both organisations. My Bus Edinburgh is an application developed for the Android platform which is similar in functionality to the iPhone application. Like the iPhone application, this application is developed by an independent developer, backed by Lothian Buses and The City of Edinburgh Council, and is available free of charge.
In August 2010, the company introduced an early running alarm system for drivers, which is linked into the automatic vehicle tracking system, and sounds an alarm and displays warning messages if the bus is running early. This was as a result of the company being fined £10,500 by the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland, having been found to be running buses early. After a customer complaint, Vehicle and Operator Services Agency monitored services 4, 16, 27 and 45 in February 2010, and found that of 303 instances, 44 buses were running early, despite starting the route on time, while 20 were running late. The company's defence was that they had built in some running time to cope with the delays due to tram works, but in some places, these works had ended early. The Commissioner accepted this defence, and chose not to take action against the company's operating licence (which authorises a maximum of 700 vehicles). Instead the Commissioner imposed a fine set much lower than the legal maximum (calculated as £550 * 700 vehicles = £385,000)
The company also supplies data to the Transport for Edinburgh open data service, which supplies vehicle location data to sites such as bustimes.org.
Lothian Buses' Seafield depot was used as a location for the CBeebies children's programme Me Too! under the name of Riversea Buses. The company's staff also feature in the programme, aired between 2006 and 2007. Of Lothian Buses' participation in the series, the company's then chief executive officer Neil Renilson said "It's a good opportunity to keep public transport in the eye of the next generation of customers."