Review of "Lothian Buses (LRT)"

published 01/04/2003 | ShoppingGirl
Member since : 26/09/2002
Reviews : 80
Members who trust : 77
About me :
Pro Cheap, convenient, plentiful during the day.
Cons Scarce after 6pm, smelly and rude people.
very helpful
Quality of Rooms
Customer service
Frequency of bus / buses
Value for money

"Even my BUS PASS is clever"

The next time somebody tells you that you look like the back end of a bus, think twice before you bash them on the head with a telephone directory. Liz Hurley, our very own British sex kitten, has allegedly tried to sue Lothian Regional Transport (LRT) for decking it’s new bus fleets out in a design that looks litigiously like something Versace designed exclusively for *her*!

So come to Edinburgh and marvel first hand at our couture-inspired buses. In fact, bring some loose change with you and the city is yours for the taking. Here’s your handy bus guide to the city that never smiles (according to a Comic Relief poll – presumably they did their research on people watching Lenny Henry at knifepoint) And feel free to leave the designer togs at home - our local passenger population is much more at home in quilted coats and rainbonnets (old ladies) or indeed shellsuits with big logos on them (neds).

Ok so you’re rich, you’re smug, and you don’t go anywhere without a Samsonite trolleybag. Chances are that you arrived in Edinburgh via our super splendid airport. Don’t waste good time and effort trying to get a taxi (it’s a nightmare, and costs around 15 quid into the city centre). Instead, clamber aboard one of our very modern and stylish Airport Buses. This will cost you a paltry £3.30 for a single fare into Edinburgh, or a positively peanutty £5.00 for an open return. (Tip: be very careful not to chew/ tear/ fidget with your ticket, you might make it null and void. Tempting though as it’s made of paper).

There are lots of drop off points in town to choose from, and don’t worry about your luggage – there’s lots of rack space for it. Your passage into town will be swift, as we operate a ‘greenways’ system, allocating a lane specifically for buses and taxis only. You’ll whizz past the commuter traffic in no time, arriving fresh and unhassled in our lovely city centre, gasping at the stunning views of the Castle as you sweep to your destination.

Once on Princes Street, the world (and Leith too) becomes your oyster. All routes in Edinburgh touch on this street, and from here you can go anywhere. If you don’t know which route you need to take, simply consult the maps provided in the bigger bus shelters. Even if your end destination is way out of town (Balerno?! Where the fox that?) you will find a bus to take you there – and all for 80p.

Edinburgh buses are maroon and white (remind you of a football team?) or, on the more recent models, red and white. They have LRT written on them, as well as all the usual advertising. They aren’t so much easy to spot as impossible to miss. In town, they’re all you can see as far as the horizon. Our local council has a really aggressive pro bus/ anti car stance, which is maddening if you’re a driver as they really do make it all but impossible to drive in town, but great news for the bus traveller like me who can reap the benefits of all that inward investment.

Firstly, Edinburgh buses are comparatively cheap (I’m using Aberdeen as my only comparison so I hope I’m right). You can travel all day on a ‘day saver’ ticket, on as many routes as you please, for £1.80. This is the ‘off peak’ rate, and it’s £2.50 if you begin travel before 9 am, but most of the early birds have bus passes anyway. For the tourist or visitor to Edinburgh, the day saver is quite frankly a life saver – you can hop on and off to your heart’s content all over the city without fiddling for change.

An adult single fare is either 60p (for a very short distance) or 80p to go pretty much anywhere. There’s also a top fare of £1 but who wants to end up in Penicuik?

Kids fares are 50p anywhere, anytime. Easy to remember and not so hard on the old change either, though I do have fond memories of my own childhood when a half fare meant 10p! And even then my mum grudged it and told me to walk! Grrr. I’ll have to remind her of that.

Secondly, we have an embarrassment of services, with new routes opening up all the time to accommodate the new developments mushrooming up all over this economically booming city. The number 22 bus for instance – it links the Gyle shopping and business centre way out in the West of the city with the Ocean Terminal shopping and leisure complex down in the bowels of Leith. Neither of these places existed when I was a kid, but now they are served by a ridiculously frequent bus service (every 5 minutes would you believe), making connections for those who need to work, shop or simply enjoy their leisure time a piece of cake.

Some of the routes are arguably over-provided. The number 26 to Portobello is ludicrously frequent, and it’s a common sight in town to see three of these buses, all nearly empty, travelling in convoy. I have to admit though that at rush hour even the number 26’s are all full up - such is the demand here for bus travel home for city workers.

I live in Morningside (it’s posh, but they let folks like me live there too), and I’m so well served by buses during the day it actually becomes an annoyance listening to them all rumbling past my front door. That’s a minor inconvenience though compared with the ease and speed I can get into town for work, so I remind myself of that when I feel like moaning! Morningside is mainly populated by old dears and yummy mummies who drive Land Rovers, so guess who travels on the bus with me every day? But again, I don’t moan. Listening to old dear banter lights up my mornings, and sometimes even brings a wee tear to my eye.

As does travelling anywhere by bus at peak times – no amount of bus provision can soak up the demand, and very often it’s standing room only. But it’s quick and convenient, so I just read my ‘Metro’ (provided on most buses) and keep my head down.

Thirdly, our buses are themselves the pride of Scotland. Newer models have got all kind of mod cons, most notably a ‘kneeling’ function which enables old folks, wheelchair users, buggy pushers etc to get on without having to dice with death. Once on board, there’s a designated buggy/ wheelchair section, and I’ve seen plenty of mums give each other the evil eye over who gets the coveted space! Saves putting the buggy down you see, and waking the sleeping beast.

The newer buses also have a much clearer route display on the front, listing all main stops. Comfier seats and more luggage space are all becoming standard on the newer buses, and these are replacing the old at a fair rate. (Thought – what becomes of old, defunct buses? Apart from the ones Cliff Richard gets his hands on that is.)

The bus stops themselves are a symphony of clarity and helpfulness. Most bus stops now clearly state whether they are heading to or from the city centre (which is v useful if you need to do the walk of shame home on a Sunday morning from some blokes’ house in a godforsaken suburb you’ve never been to before) and also provide fairly accurate timetabling info. This is brilliant as it allows you to make the choice – do I stand here and wait twenty minutes for the number 5, or do I walk round the corner and catch the more frequent number 16 instead? The times can’t be 100 per cent, as traffic flow will always take it’s toll on bus reliability, but they are usually surprisingly spot on.

All bus stops now display a simplified route map too, and even hardened natives like myself need to consult these when in a ‘where the hell am I’ situation, or when heading to somewhere exciting and new – Oxgangs, for instance.

Ok and FOURTHLY we have the jewel in the crown of Edinburgh’s bus provision. I give you – the night bus. Where would we be without it? I’ll tell you where we’d be, we’d be standing on Lothian Road at two am on a Saturday night, trying to avoid fights and puddles of vomit whilst hopelessly waiting for that most elusive of carriages: the Edinburgh taxi. You’ve got more chance of hitching a ride home on Shergar than you have of getting a cab in Edinburgh at the weekend, but never fear – the night bus is here. All the main arterial routes out of town are served by an hourly bus, departing from Princes Street right up til 3am.

The night bus is more expensive at £2 flat fare, but compared to a cab it’s laughably cheap, and the driver won’t scowl at you for a tip either. Not only that, but the entertainment provided on these buses beats any Festival act hands down. There’s an almost party-like atmosphere amongst all your pissed comrades, and apart from the occasional fisticuffs on the top deck, the banter is always more uplifting than any you’ve just endured with your mates in town.

I have a special privilege though: I only pay £1 to travel on the night bus. Why? Because…

… FIFTHLY, we have a very groovy bus pass system! Replacing the old paper ‘Ridacard’ system (sounds dodgy – and where do you swipe it?!) we now have a super ‘smart card’ arrangement. The size of a credit card, these wee beauties have made the bus pass cool and modern at last. They have a chip or something inside them that remembers who you are and how much money you’ve paid. You place the card on the reader as you board the buss, and the display tells you how long you’ve got til renewal time. If you lose your card, you phone up and cancel it just as you would a bank card. They tell their computer to cancel it, and all your credit is transferred to a new one. All this for 96p a day!

My bus pass currently costs me £31 every four weeks, and given that I use it at least twice a day, often four times or more, it’s great value (oh, and it gets you on the night bus half price.) I wouldn’t be without my bus pass, it gives me the freedom of the city and a bizarre sense of spontanaeity too (I’m bored… hey! I’ll pop over to mums house!) as all journeys are essentially ‘free’ once you’ve paid for the card.

Ok so I sound overjoyed with Edinburgh’s buses. But it ain’t all happy drunks and smiling old dears. What are the negative sides of bus travel in the city?

Firstly, the provision falls away like snow off a dyke after 6pm, which I think is ludicrous. Fair enough, all the office workers are safely home by then, but this is a busy city for god’s sake! Gym goers, pub goers, shoppers,shift workers and of course the endless stream of backpack-wielders coming out of the train station on a 24/7 basis all need transport too. I have stood waiting for a bus home from the gym for half an hour, only to have to stand all the way home when it arrives as everybody else needs to catch it too. Crazy stuff at 8pm!

Secondly, buses are used by people from all walks of life, and those of you who have read my other ops will know I have a short fuse when it comes to tolerating the vile habits of my fellow travellers. Ignoring non-smoking signs, slapping small children, swearing loudly and showing no mobile phone manners whatsoever seem to be par for the course on many bus routes. I just try to ignore it but it can grate on the old nerves, and at it’s worst it makes you long for the relative peace and comfort of driving in your own personal car. I realise that buses do need to be inclusive, and that human behaviour is generally beyond the control of the bus company, but I do wish they’d be a bit more pro-active. London’s Underground, for instance, doesn’t shy away from telling passengers to behave appropriately – and they even have signs up telling you not to eat smelly food! That would be a bonus here for those of us who prefer not to inhale half a KFC on the way home.

And thirdly, I’m simply not convinced by the argument that buses are somehow environmentally friendly. Anybody who has stood on Princes Street at 6pm and seen the wall of buses, all sitting with their engines running and pumping out diesel fumes will testify to that. But short of taking up cycling (with *my* hair? Get real) the bus is the only option for many of us.

Lastly, I do love the fact that many visitors come to our city, but my god it can be a grind when they all get on the bus at once. They can never understand the concept of ‘exact change only’ and then they try to pay with travellers cheques instead. Then they say things like, ‘where is there a cheap good quality B&B?’ to the blank faced driver who lives in Burdiehouse and wouldn’t know a good B&B if he crashed into it. These people have no doubt been told that the Scots are a warm and helpful bunch, as indeed we are, but let’s draw a line in the sand here folks. Our hospitality doesn’t run *that* far!

And before I finish this bus-tastic op, I wonder if anyone out there has considered bus driving as a career? According to the LRT website, they’re continually training and hiring new driving talent (my words not theirs) and the expected yearly earnings based on a 44 hour week is £16 grand! That beats scrubbing toilets, huh?

I couldn’t do it myself though. I’m happy and helpful by nature ;)

Bon Voyage! xx

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Comments on this review

  • marcellep published 12/05/2005
    Good review. Rob
  • Groovee published 12/05/2003
    HAHA had to laugh! The number 26 bus may be frequent but how many go past me until I am able to walk straight on with the buggy? Love louise:)
  • Discerna published 09/04/2003
    Next time I come to Edinburgh I'll remember to bring plenty of change. Enjoyed your op.
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Product Information : Lothian Buses (LRT)

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Listed on Ciao since: 19/03/2001