Empty bus an ‘appalling waste of money’

Cllr Derek Milligan  (Labour) at the National Mining Museum, in front of the tourist bus
Cllr Derek Milligan (Labour) at the National Mining Museum, in front of the tourist bus

Figures released by Midlothian Council have revealed that fewer than three people a day are using the £69,000 hop-on/ hop-off tourist bus.

When launched in April it was hoped that the £69,000 pilot project ‘Midlothian Explorer’ bus would boost local tourist attractions on the route including the National Mining Museum in Newtongrange, Dalkeith Country Park and Rosslyn Chapel. However, Midlothian Council has admitted that the level of use has been “lower than expected”.

While, Labour Group leader Councillor Derek Milligan has condemned the bus service as a “gimmick and an appalling waste of public money”. He said:“These figures show that the bus must be driving around Midlothian empty for half the day. The service is just a bus to nowhere. To average fewer than three passengers a day shows that the idea is seriously flawed.

“We would be happy to see a service that connected key tourist sites, but it has to be a sensible route, not an endless journey that nobody would be willing to sit through when there are better alternatives already available.

“This has been a gimmick and a total waste of public money. We have seen cuts to bus services across Midlothian most recently in towns and villages such as Bonnyrigg, Poltonhall, Rosewell and Roslin. The SNP administration should be concentrating on supporting local bus routes for Midlothian’s hard-pressed residents, not putting money into a half baked bus service for tourists.”

A single ticked on the tourist bus costs £2 for adults and £1 for children. While a day tickets cost £5 and £3.

The cabinet member for economic development, Councillor Jim Bryant (SNP) said:“Even at this relatively early stage, the new Borders rail line is showing positive signs of being a strong catalyst for economic growth in Midlothian. To maximise that growth, a wide range of measures are being instigated, one of which has been the hop-on/hop-off bus service. The cost of the hop-on/ hop-off bus was jointly paid for by funding provided by Borders Rail Bluepoint Group to encourage tourism along the line.

“Although the passenger rate has been lower than we had hoped or expected, all the income generated from the bus so far will benefit the region.”