First Scotland East has announced that it is to scrap services between Queensferry and Edinburgh after Stagecoach launches competing route

First Scotland East has surrendered a key West Lothian bus route just days before Stagecoach East Scotland launched its own competing services on the Queensferry to Edinburgh city centre corridor.

The Stagecoach subsidiary revealed plans to launch new route 40/40A, its first standalone route on the south side of the Firth of Forth, last month and in direct competition with the First’s own Route 43 and limited stop peak-hour X4/X43 services (PT076).

However, in a statement issued by First Scotland East last week, the operator revealed that it would withdraw its operations between Edinburgh and Queensferry from April 21 “due to high operating costs and increasing competition”.

Meanwhile, the spat between First and Stagecoach has also drawn in Lothian Buses. Last week the council-owned operator registered new Route 43 between Edinburgh city centre and the suburb of Barnton along part of the contested corridor.

Observers suggest that the registration has been made in order to secure Lothian’s own position in the area.

Explaining  First’s decision to pull out, First Scotland East managing director Paul McGowan said that the routes, which are operated by the operator’s Livingston depot, were remote from the operator’s core business. “The cost of running operations in the area is becoming increasingly challenging,” he said. “We are also aware of extra competition that we will shortly face in the Queensferry area from another operator, which will provide the same links.

“We’ve carefully considered the limited options available to us and reluctantly we see little alternative but to withdraw these services.”

McGowan said that the operator was “working hard to ensure that our operations at First Scotland East are sustainable in the long term”.

First has confirmed that it will refund season ticket holders and that it is also in discussions with West Lothian Council about the future of two tendered morning and evening journeys between Bo’ness and Queensferry that are currently funded by Falkirk and West Lothian.

Stagecoach this week launched its new Queensferry routes with buses operating every 10 minutes, an improvement on First’s existing 20-minute off-peak frequency. The operator has also launched a range of introductory fares and is widely advertising that its buses will offer change, in sharp contrast to First Scotland East’s exact fare policy on the corridor.

Andrew Jarvis, managing director of Stagecoach East Scotland said that the operator has been very successful in building patronage on its existing cross-Forth services between Fife and the Scottish capital. “I strongly believe that there is significant scope in this area to attract many more people out of their cars,” he added.

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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