Below are notes from a meeting myself and David Houston (Colinton Community Council) held with Lothian Buses to discuss the planned changes to the 10 & 16 Services to Colinton. I am not happy with the outcome, but I now have a better idea of what is driving matters.
Cllr Scott Arthur and David Houston, Transport Convener, Colinton Community Council
We met with Lothian Buses (Gaynor Marshall, Communications Director and Board Member and Keith Finlay, Business Development Manager) to discuss major changes to the 10 and 16 services which many people in Colinton rely on. These changes are planned to take place from Sunday 5 June. Broadly, the No 10 route will become a Bonaly only service at a higher frequency of typically 4 per hour and the No 16 route will be extended to Torphin (like the N16) and provide a frequent service of about 5 per hour to Morningside but a longer journey to the City centre.
We started by outlining that many people in Colinton warmly welcomed aspects of the proposals, especially Bonaly passengers, but many residents living along the Woodhall Road/ Torphin Road area had concerns – particularly being deprived of a more direct service to town and regarding children travelling to school.
We expressed concern about the lack of local consultation with Colinton people by Lothian Buses over such a significant change but were told that, currently, they had insufficient resources to commit to consultation on all service changes across Edinburgh. In the absence of this, Cllr Arthur had conducted his own local survey which had quickly gathered over 350 responses, mostly concerned about the impact of the proposals on west Colinton.
Lothian Buses outlined how devastating the effect of the Covid Pandemic had been on their services and profitability, and expressed their concern that financial aid from the Scottish Government was about to end despite their services being months (or perhaps years) away from returning to normal. They noted that public transport recovery in terms of passenger numbers in Edinburgh had been slower than elsewhere, and that city redevelopment projects (e.g. tram works) were impacting on service reliability. It was also noted that Lothian Buses are not fully compensated by the Scottish Government for providing “free” travel for people under 22. This context is important for Lothian Buses as they wanted to communicate that they were not changing the timetable from a position of strength. In particular, to return to the frequency in 2019 when both Bonaly and Torphin had a 20min service was just not possible right now.
They acknowledged that there had been non-trivial reliability issues with the 10 service, but argued that this was partly due to the bifurcation of the No 10 bus route to Bonaly and Torphin (it makes it harder to turn around a delayed bus). It was explained that having a single terminus at the end of the 10 and 16 route would improve reliability.
Lothian Buses accepted that the 16 was a slightly slower route into the city, but argued that this was balanced by the fact that it was a more frequent service than the 10: 12min typically instead of 30min.
We explored introducing a peak time “Torphin 10”, or giving people free transfers from the 16 to the 10 at Rustic Cottages, but these were argued to be not commercially viable options. Nor were there any plans to introduce different ticketing, such as a 1 hour pass allowing use of multiple buses, but it was noted the Day Ticket remains an option and passengers under 22 and over 59 would have “free” travel anyway. They did say, however, that they will attempt to ensure the new timetable facilitates changes between the 10 and 16 in Colinton. We pointed out that if Rustic Cottages was to become a heavily used interchange point, the existing bus stop on the narrow pavement needed to be redesigned and expanded to minimise the risk of accidents, especially involving school children. This would actually be an Edinburgh Council responsibility through the Bus Stop Working Party.
They also undertook to provide a free service from the foot of Bonaly Rd to the Bonaly terminus for passengers wishing to access the new No 10 service directly from Woodhall Rd. In the outward direction, Woodhall Rd customers would still have the choice of taking the Bonaly 10 to Bonaly Rd or the Torphin 16.
We asked why the 16 had not been extended to Bonaly and the Torphin 10 retained and they indicated that was mainly down to the physical difficulty of the 100-seater 16 buses negotiating the narrow Bonaly roads.
Lothian Buses concluded that they intended to proceed as planned, but agreed to keep the situation under review. Any early difficulties will be addressed in the next scheduled timetable change in September but they believe that any major change like this should be given a reasonable opportunity to bed in.
This is not the outcome we hoped for, and it is particularly disappointing given the length of time it has taken to arrange the meeting. Whilst we still have significant concerns about the proposals, we can see that Lothian Buses are in a very difficult position.
The meeting ended with agreement that local residents should have more opportunity to input into any suggested service changes, and we discussed ways of doing this in the future.