BUS drivers are in open revolt against Edinburgh’s plans to extend its controversial tram system.
A Facebook group called Stop the Edinburgh Tram Extension has been set up by bus drivers and counts many drivers among the 450-strong group.
The city council recently voted in favour of extending the system from the east end of the city centre to Leith. The route was originally to take this route but the Leith section was scrapped as the costs and delays of the project spiralled.
To pay for the extension, which is set to cost £162m on top of the original £750m bill, council-owned Lothian Buses face paying £20m by increasing fares.
The open defiance from bus firm employees is particularly embarrassing for the council as Lothian Buses also run the trams under the umbrella of Transport for Edinburgh.
One driver, who did not wish to be named, said: “”It is a group started up by drivers at Lothian. We will be fighting this again.
“The council are considering making Lothian pay £20m towards the extension by increasing fares.
“Right now we are trying to get as many members as possible. There have also been a number of online petitions started up.
“We don’t expect the councillors to listen just like last time, but we have to try.”
On the site, admins describing themselves as current employees of Lothian Buses include Alan J McLean, depot controller, and Gary Johnstone, PCV driver.
A comment on the Facebook page states: “Trainset for Councillors but the children won’t get one for Christmas as a result”.
The site also features a painting of a giant robot destroying trams with fiery lasers from its eyes.
Another member wrote: “This tram extension is a kick in the face to all these people who will be losing their jobs.”
Another wrote: “Edinburgh didn’t say yes. The council voted for it.”
A description reads: “Ok boys and girls, it is time we made a stand against this council.
“Please get as many people you can to join the fight and join this group, the more people we have the more the council will have to take notice of us.”
A spokesman for the Scotland’s Worst Drivers campaign group, said: “We think that given the current need to save £170m from council, including the need to ace 2000 jobs, speaks volumes.
“Yet they “have” the money for tram extension? It’s immoral at the very least. Why not hold a city wide referendum on it?
The £162.2 million plan to approve the tram extension from Leith to Newhaven was approved in principle by Edinburgh City Council’s ruling Labour and the SNP coalition last week. Only the Conservatives voted against it.
The line would be part-financed by £20m “extraordinary dividend” from Lothian Buses. A full decision will be made at the council’s meeting on December 10th.
A spokesman for Lothian Buses said: “Employees can make use of Facebook and express views but we expect this to be in a personal capacity and not as an employee of the company.
“We will be reminding employees of guidance previously issued on this matter and of their responsibility to behave appropriately in line with the guidance.
“We are currently in discussions with the Council about a possible tram extension and about funding options.
“Both Lothian Buses and the Council have made it clear that any potential support, in the form of an extraordinary dividend, should only be provided if it’s clear that there will be no detrimental effect on the priorities of Lothian Buses.”