??????Employees of Edinburgh bus firm, Lothian Buses, rallied together to show coucnil bosses their objections to plans to merge the city’s bus service with the controversial tram project.
Despite their plea, councillors tonight voted to push ahead with their new business plan.
By Clare Carswell
BATTLING bus drivers staged a protest against plans to wreck “the best service in Britain” by merging services with Edinburgh’s crisis hit tram project.
Dozens of uniformed staff from Lothian Buses gathered outside the City Chambers yesterday (Thurs) ahead of a meeting which could decide the fate of what one described as “the best bus service in Britain”.
Rab Fraser, Chairman of the Lothian Buses branch of Unite the union and Joint Trade Union Committee, was presenting the workforce’s objection to the controversial merger.
He said: “We have a fear that somewhere down the line, one, two, three, four, five years, Lothian Buses may be sold off to prop up half a tramline.
“We have the best bus service in Britain.
“This may be lost with this merger with TIE, TEL whoever it may be, to prop up half a tramline.”
Union members who organised the protest object to the plans that profits generated by Lothian Buses may be used to subsidise the tram project.
It is proposed that Lothian Buses should merge with the TIE, the tram firm to create one body, the Transport Edinburgh Limited, TEL.
The Unite deputation, delivered by Mr Fraser and Jane Saren, an ex- Non-Executive Director of Lothian Buses, said they were simply delivering the fears of staff and passengers alike.
They are calling on Lothian Buses to have a Chairman of Lothian Buses who will speak only on behalf of the bus company.
The current chair, David MacKay also represents TIE and TEL, something Mr Fraser said presents a ‘massive conflict of interest’.
Employees handed out leaflets and many held placards marked the protest’s slogans ‘Save our buses’ and ‘Stop the merger’.
One driver, Alan Milne, 50, said he was worried for: “Jobs, pensions and terms and conditions in the company you work for.”
Members of the public including Chris Millar, 26, joined the protest.
He said: “I’m here because there have been no questions asked about the business case that has been presented to the council and no figures to back it up.”
“I want the councillors to demand more information from TIE. Figures are being withheld from the public and that makes them more concerned.”
Lothian Buses regular passenger, Tricia MacLeod, 62, from the Fountainbridge area of the city expressed her loyalty to the bus service: “I do not see the need for trams in Edinburgh at all.
“I use the buses every day. Taking money off buses for trams is ridiculous.”
When asked what she would like to see done with the tram plans for Edinburgh she replied, “I would like them stopped all together and money paid back into buses.”
The Regional Co-ordinating Officier for Unite Union, Pat Rafferty also attended this morning’s protest: “Unite’s position has been pretty consistent on this.
“We wish to see Lothian Buses remain in public ownership, that’s of paramount importance to us and the people of Edinburgh.
“There is a real danger and a true real danger that that merger could impact the service that’s being provided just now by Lothian Buses for Edinburgh and the Lothians by propping up the tram service,” Rafferty added.
Cllr Gordon Mackenzie, Transport Convener at the City of Edinburgh Council confirmed the merger would go ahead. He said: “This Motion provides a sensible way forward and will provide Members with greater comfort that the business case for the future combined tram and bus integrated network is solid.
“Everyone within the Chamber today was united in seeking to ensure that the interests of Lothian Buses going forward are protected. I am confident that the strength of the two businesses going forward under an overarching operating company will only enhance the public transport provision in the city.”