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Lothian Buses

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Lothian Buses Envrio400XLB 1071.jpg
One of Lothian's new 100 seat Enviro400XLB buses on display at Edinburgh Castle esplanade.
ParentTransport for Edinburgh (91%)
Midlothian Council (5%)
East Lothian Council (3%)
West Lothian Council (1%)
Service areaEdinburgh
East Lothian
West Lothian
Service typeBus services
Open top bus tours
Executive Tours
AllianceEdinburgh Trams
Routes56 (daytime) / 12 (night buses)
9 (East Coast Buses)
9 (Lothian Country)
3 (Open-Top Tour)
1 (3 Bridges Tour)(Executive Tours)
1 (East Coast Tour)
DepotsLongstone (LS)
Annandale Street (CE)
Marine (MA)
Musselburgh (MU)
North Berwick (NB)
Seafield (SF)
Livingston (LV)
Fleet794 (2018)
Annual ridership120 million (December 2016)
Chief executiveGeorge Lowder

Lothian Buses[1] is the largest municipal bus company in the United Kingdom.[2] The City of Edinburgh Council (through Transport for Edinburgh) owns 91%, Midlothian Council 5%, East Lothian Council 3% and West Lothian Council 1%.[3][4]

Lothian operates the majority of bus services in the Edinburgh council area, and is a significant operator in East Lothian, Midlothian and most recently West Lothian. It operates a comprehensive night bus network, four Edinburgh Airport services and owns the subsidiary companies Lothian Country, East Coast Buses, Edinburgh Bus Tours and Lothian Motorcoaches.


The company can trace its history back to the Edinburgh Street Tramways Company of 1871, also involving at various times the tramway companies of Leith, Musselburgh and Edinburgh North. The City Council (Edinburgh Corporation Tramways Department) took over operation of the tramways in 1919, at which time most of the system was cable operated. Electrification of the tram network was completed in 1923,[5] but the first motor buses had arrived in 1919.[6]

The city's trams ceased operation between 1950 and 1956, after which the operation became the Edinburgh Corporation Transport Department.[7] In 1965, it purchased its first rear-engined double-decker bus, a Leyland Atlantean PDR1/1 (registration ESF 801C). This bus is currently preserved at the Scottish Vintage Bus Museum. Almost 600 buses were added to the fleet over the next 17 years.

Following local government reorganisation, Edinburgh Corporation Transport was renamed Lothian Region Transport on 16 May 1975. In January 2000, it was again renamed as Lothian Buses.[8][9]


Lothian Buses have won several awards for their services to the Lothian region including Bus Operator of the Year in the 2007 UK Bus Awards,[10][11] and has subsequently been voted Public Transport Operator of the Year (Bus) at the 2008 National Transport Awards. When the company was cited for its substantial route development, 32% growth in passenger numbers since 1998 and £100 million investment in low-floor buses since 2000.[12]

Lothian Buses was voted Best UK Bus Company in 2002 and 2003,[13] and vehicles previously carried the wording Voted Scotland's Best Bus Company 2006 in a laurel wreath type logo near the fleetname.

In November 2011, the company won the Top City Operator of the Year award at the UK Bus Awards.[14]


Lothian Buses have operated a flat-fare system since March 2006.[15] Adult and child singles and day tickets, pre-paid multiple singles and 'Ridacards' are also available, with senior citizens travelling on free travel passes in line with the rest of Scotland. As of February 2018, an Adult single fare is £1.70 and a child fare still costs 80p, since July 2017. An adult day ticket also remains £4.00 and a child day £2.00 since 19 April 2015.[16]

Fares are paid into a hopper, which automatically dumps the money into a vault to which the driver has no access; change is not given.[17]

The Lothian 'Ridacard' bus pass is a pre-paid plastic smartcard giving unlimited travel on regular daytime and night bus services, as well as Edinburgh Trams services.[18] It is purchased initially from a Transport for Edinburgh Travelshop, where the owner's picture is incorporated on the card to prevent misuse. Once purchased, the card can be placed onto an on-board reader, which reads the contactless chip in the smartcard. Cards can be credited for a weekly, 4 weekly or annual period. A warning is displayed on the last five days of validity. The card can then be topped up at Transport for Edinburgh Travelshops or PayPoint equipped retailers.[19]

Regular Lothian Bus services running within Edinburgh and the west of East Lothian operate a flat fare, but from Longniddry, Macmerry and Ormiston there is a zonal system with East Coast Buses having six zones.

Network, brands and subsidiaries[edit]

Lothian-branded network[edit]

Lothian-branded services are the core of the Lothian Buses group. There are some core services in the Lothian network that have followed more or less the same route since they were operated by trams in the 1950s, like services 3, 11 and 16.[20] However, the routes and timetables of most services are frequently modified in minor ways. For example, in recent years several confusing details such as letter suffixed routes and clockwise/anticlockwise circular services have been removed from the map. In the last ten years, there have been many temporary and permanent diversions in the New Town, including the closure at various times of Princes Street for tram works, George Street for pedestrianisation[21] and Leith Street for the reconstruction of the St James Centre.

The majority of current routes pass through the city centre from opposing termini, either crossing or following Princes Street in full or in part. This means that there are some arteries in and out of the New Town that are served by as many as a dozen different routes, such as Nicholson Street and Leith Walk. Some of these services, like services 3, 26 and 37, extend into outlying towns in East and Midlothian. There are also some more orbital routes, such as service 38.


Traditionally, Edinburgh Corporation, LRT and Lothian Buses had been generally painted in a madder (a dark red) and cream (or white) livery. When low floor disabled access vehicles were introduced in the late 1990s, they were given their own distinguishing "harlequin" livery, tartan pattern upholstery and brightly cloured floors and walls. The last high step bus was removed from service by Lothian in the late 2000s, making the distinction irrelevant.

Lothian began to phase out the harlequin livery in May 2010, replacing it with a version of the traditional madder and white colour scheme. This had sweeping curved lines, having been updated to suit the body shapes of more modern buses. The last harlequin bus was repainted in 2016.[22] Branding was briefly written as "", being replaced with the Transport for Edinburgh roundel and the words "Lothian Buses" to coincide with the launch of Edinburgh Trams. Gold was used instead of white on hybrid diesel-electric buses.

The livery again began to be updated in December 2016, with new, angular shapes was introduced on the service 22.[23] One reason for this is that Lothian's new batch of Wrightbus Gemini 3 double deckers had windows up the full length of the stairs, making the "sweeping" livery look awkward.

Airlink and Skylink[edit]

Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TL in Route 100 Airlink livery

Lothian directly operates four services to Edinburgh Airport; Airlink 100, Skylink 200, Skylink 300 and Skylink 400. This is in addition to the service provided by Edinburgh Trams, which has one of its termini at the airport. All Lothian airport services use special airport fare zones, meaning a single ticket to the airport costs significantly more than the standard single ticket. However, a journey that does not include the airport zone is charged at the standard fare.

Airlink 100 runs to Waverley Bridge along Corstorphine Road. Since 30 July 2017, Airlink has accepted contactless card payments as well as cash and ridacard fares; the only part of the Lothian group to do so.

Skylink 200 commenced on 23 April 2017, running from the airport to the north of Edinburgh, terminating at Ocean Terminal.[24][25] It was initially operated by single decker buses, but double deckers have been used since 1 October 2017.

Skylink 300 commenced on 1 October 2017, as an upgrade and renumbering of the old service 35, which ran from the airport to the Ocean Terminal via Slateford, Longstone and South Gyle.[26][27] The 35 had been a way of getting to the airport while only paying the standard Lothian fare, and usually used repainted ex-Airlink vehicles with extra luggage racks. The route was amended on 29 July 2018, shortening the route considerably and introducing a new terminal at Cameron Toll. At the same time, a modified 35 was reintroduced, but this service terminated at Heriot-Watt University rather than the airport.

Skylink 400 commenced on 29 July 2018 operating to Fort Kinnaird via Gracemount, Fairmilehead, Oxgangs and Colinton.[28][29][30] It replaced and upgraded the old service 18.

Liveries and vehicles[edit]

Airlink 100 was originally branded as "Airline", and has used many different liveries and logos, though all have been primarily blue. Airlink buses are always new when they start on the service, and are cascaded to other services after a few years. Over the years, the service has used the Leyland Olympian, Scania OmniDekka, and the Wright Eclipse Gemini 2.[31] Today, the Airlink service uses a light blue and grey version of the standard angular livery. Skylink services use a medium blue and white version of the angular livery. All four airport services are entirely operated by the modern Wrightbus Gemini 3.

East Coast Buses[edit]

In summer 2012, First Scotland East withdrew route 44B from Edinburgh to Pencaitland. This prompted Lothian Buses to expand into East Lothian much further than they had for years; far past the Tranent terminus of the service 26. Operations were initially branded as East Lothian Buses, and service 113 launched on 12 June 2012.[32][33] A second service was added in September 2014 (the 104 to Haddington).[34] The brand name was changed to Lothian Country Buses. One reason for launching as a separate brand was to make it easier to introduce a zonal fare system, rather than the flat fare of Lothian Buses.

First Scotland East announced in June 2016 that they would be withdrawing entirely from East Lothian by 14 August, believing the county to be unprofitable.[35] Lothian later announced the creation of a wholly owned subsidiary company, East Coast Buses, to again fill the gap left by First. The new company also took over the former First depots at North Berwick and Musselburgh, and took on many former First staff.[36][37] From 23 April 2017, the two Lothian Country Buses routes were integrated into East Coast Buses.[38]

Liveries and vehicles[edit]

East Lothian Buses services were initially operated by existing Lothian vehicles. The service was later operated by five Wright Eclipse bodied Volvo B7RLEs and two Plaxton President bodied Dennis Trident 2s. The East Lothian Buses/Lothian Country Buses livery was a version of the standard Lothian design featuring sweeping curved lines in bright green and cream, similar to the livery of the former Scottish Motor Traction/Eastern Scottish buses.[39] East Coast Buses uses a version of the more recent, angular Lothian design,in green and grey (though the ECB green is slightly bluer than that formerly used by LCB).

Lothian Country[edit]

In June 2017, a new subsidiary named Lothian Country commenced operating route 43 to South Queensferry after the previous operator Stagecoach East Scotland deemed the service not economically viable.[40][41][42] This new operation re-used the recently defunct Lothian Country Buses brand, for unrelated services travelling the opposite direction out of the city.

On 19 August 2018, three new routes to West Lothian commenced creating new links between Edinburgh and Bathgate, and Edinburgh Park station and Whitburn.[43][44] On 29 September 2018, a further two routes will be launched. A brand new depot is being built for Lothian Country and Lothian Motorcoaches in the Newbridge area.[citation needed]

Edinburgh Bus Tours[edit]

The Lothian Buses group have operated open top double deck tour bus services for many decades. They are today run under four distinct brands: City Sightseeing,[45] Edinburgh Tours,[46] Mac Tours[47] and The Majestic Tour.[48] The City Sightseeing tour is operated as a franchise of the City Sightseeing brand.[49] In 2013, all were brought under the control of one entity, Edinburgh Bus Tours,[50] although the separate trading names are retained.

City Sightseeing and Edinburgh Tours visit the Old Town, New Town, Calton Hill, Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle, albeit on slightly differing routes. The Majestic Tour operates a long loop from Holyrood and New Town, via the Royal Botanic Garden, to the coast at Ocean Terminal, the site of the former Royal Yacht Britannia.[49]

Until October 2016, Mac Tours operated between March and October only with AEC Routemaster buses in a dark red and cream livery, with See Edinburgh By Vintage Bus branding.[51][52] All other tours use Wright Eclipse Gemini 3 bodied Volvo B5LHs. For the City Sightseeing tours, the livery is red, for Edinburgh Tours the livery is yellow and green, and Majestic Tours use yellow and blue coloured vehicles.

Since 2007, Mac Tours has operated a bus for Forth Tours providing departues from Waverley Bridge for their various tours and cruises of the Firth of Forth.[53] The bus used is a dedicated Plaxton President bodied Dennis Trident painted in a special yellow, blue and green Forth Tours livery.(XIL 1484).

For the First time in 2018, The 20 Days Of Summer bus tour was Introduced.

Lothian Motorcoaches[edit]

In June 2018, Lothian returned to the coach charter market after a 19-year absence through a new subsidiary named Lothian Motorcoaches that commenced with five Plaxton Panther bodied Volvo B11Rs and three second-hand Van Hool bodied Volvo B12MTs.[54][55][56] A Brand new Depot is getting Ready for Lothiancountry and Lothian Motorcoaches in the Newbridge area. The design of the livery used by Lothian Motorcoaches is not related to the other brands of the group, being entirely dark grey with silver lettering in a font unique to the brand.

Night buses[edit]

Lothian Buses also operates a nightbus network. Ridership increased when the routes were re-numbered and re-routed to match daytime routes and increased in frequency. The operation of night buses provides a continuous 24-hour bus service to some areas of the city.[57] This ticket allows for unlimited travel all night on any night bus.[58] From 5 November 2016, East Coast Buses introduced its own nightbus service under the NightHawk brand, to North Berwick and Dunbar.[59][60] There is no special fleet used for night buses, so liveries are the same as the relevant day services. In December 2018, Lothian Country introduced the Nightbus N28 to Livingston.

Infrastructure and operation[edit]

The previous company headquarters and engineering works in Shrub Hill, off Leith Walk, were sold in 1999 subject to planning permission, after being occupied by the company since 1871.[61] After repeated delays, controversies and a public inquiry,[62][63] in 2004, the site was sold to BL Developments for £12m so that the site could be developed flats and houses.[64][65] Lothian Buses also maintain a Travel Shop on Waverley Bridge.[66]

The company as a whole operates a travel shop in Edinburgh city centre, five depots (Annandale Street, Longstone and Marine in Edinburgh and North Berwick and Musselburgh in East Lothian). There is also a driver training school and an engineering depot at Seafield.

Edinburgh has a network of park & ride sites, with Lothian buses serving the Hermiston, Ingliston, Sheriffhall, Straiton and Wallyford sites.[67]

Lothian's double decker buses are unique in Scotland in still displaying the destination at both the front and rear. In early mornings and late evenings, some services are curtailed to the city centre or to early termini, in the transition to the night bus service. In such cases, 'Part Route' is displayed in the intermediate display. Certain routes have all day short working termini, and minor diversions which are often indicated through the use of internal or external 'tram boards'.[68] Since 2006 double-deck deliveries feature a 'Route Diverted; intermediate display, used when road closures cause a service to be diverted from its normal route.


Plaxton President bodied Dennis Trident 2 traversing a former Fastlink guided busway. The route is now a tram line for Edinburgh Trams

Lothian Buses' services have been integrated with Edinburgh Trams, since the trams commenced operation in 2014 – both are managed by Transport for Edinburgh, with Lothian Buses serving interchange with the trams at various locations. The now closed guided busway element of Fastlink formed part of phase 1a of the tram permanent way.[69]


Alexander RH bodied Leyland Olympian in the final version of the traditional madder and white livery
Alexander Royal bodied Volvo Olympian painted in red and cream livery on route 15 in May 2009

Edinburgh Corporation and Lothian Buses have historically employed a high degree of standardisation of their service bus fleet, including the use of low-floor buses to facilitate maintenance savings. Lothian have never employed minibuses on their services, although some midibuses were used for a time. As at December 2014 the fleet consisted of 721 buses.[70]

Current vehicles[edit]

Twenty-eight Plaxton President Dennis Trident 2s were converted to open-top, all for use on tour and sightseeing operations. In August 2016, these were replaced by 31 Wright Eclipse Gemini 3 bodied Volvo B5TLs.[71][72]

All vehicles are fitted with internal and external CCTV cameras and cab radios, for passenger and driver safety,[73] bus lane enforcement and assisting the police,[74][75] although they have also been used in action against the company's own drivers.[76][77]

In 2017 Lothian Buses introduced six Wright StreetAir electric buses for route.[78][79] Another five will be added onto the route in 2018 which will make route 1 the first electric route in the city.

Historically Lothian has purchased new buses, however in 2018 it purchased 50 Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TLs from Tower Transit.[80]

Future vehicles[edit]

In November 2018 the introduction of 42 Alexander Dennis Enviro400 XLB bodied Volvo B8L 13.4m buses, was announced, beginning in early 2019. The tri-axle vehicles will have 100 seats, with front and middle doors.[81]

Preserved vehicles[edit]

Many vehicles previously used by Lothian Buses and its predecessors have been preserved (or are awaiting preservation) by various groups and societies. Several of the vehicles regularly appear at events, rallies and running days around the country.[82]

Route branding[edit]

A now withdrawn Leyland Olympian in traditional madder and white livery on Princes Street in 2006

Route branding has been increasingly used by Lothian since the introduction of low floor vehicles. Route branding highlights the route of certain services making the buses easier to be spotted throughout Lothian. Since May 2010 the Harlequin livery used to identify low floor buses has started to be phased out, as the company is now a full low floor operation,[83] with a return to the traditional madder and white livery although the style has been altered slightly to suit the lines of modern buses. Each type of bus owned directly by Lothian Buses has had at least one of their type painted in the new livery.

In July 2011 Lothian Buses introduced 60 new double deck buses. These buses continued with the same madder red and white pattern on the outside of the bus but Lothian Buses changed the seats to a matching madder red colour.[83] They also changed the entrance to the bus to a more wooden effect. Routes 4, 5, 19, 23 and 27 were the first buses to receive this branding.

Penicuik City Link

Buses for routes 37, 47 and X47 between Edinburgh and Penicuik were branded as Penicuik City Link, with blue uppers and roofline, and the positions of the red and madder on the skirting transposed. In 2011, one of these buses was repainted into madder and white, with no roof colour. However, the other vehicles in Penicuik City Link colours were repainted into the new madder and white livery with a turquoise mint coloured roof and the name Pen-Y-Cog. This is to celebrate the history of the area as Pen-Y-Cog is the original name for Penicuik. These buses were de-branded in 2014 due to high fuel consumption of the B7TL's used and the 37/47/X37 is now worked by standards liveries Volvo B9TLs.[citation needed]

Playing cards theme

Four double decker routes using the low-floor scheme are, or have been, based on a playing card theme, with the symbol of the suit incorporating the route number;

  • Route 3/3A was, until September 2010, Club Class – across the City and Midlothian with extra yellow on the uppers and roofline and a black "club" symbol. Bus 720, formerly one of the "Club Class" branded buses, was repainted into the new madder and white livery with a yellow roof and "3 Connect" branding in spring 2010, and it was expected that this would replace the Club Class branding. However, in September 2010, it was announced that the 3 and 3A would be rebranded, using the same livery style as trialled on 720, as The Lady Victoria to honour Midlothian's mining heritage as the routes pass the Scottish Mining Museum based in the former Lady Victoria Colliery in Newtongrange.[84]
  • Route 26 was, until mid-2009, East to West Through the Heart of the City featuring red on the roofline, gold between the decks and a large heart with an arrow symbol.[85]
  • Route 31 was Ace of Spades – cutting across the city and Midlothian with orange uppers and roofline, and a black spade symbol, which was worn by buses 751–768. However, these buses have been repainted into madder and white with no route branding.[86]
  • Route 44 was Service with a Sparkle with black uppers and roofline and a yellow diamond symbol. This was superseded by a new branding, "The Mill Race", with pebble grey uppers and roofline, but was later removed due to the high fuel consumption of the long route diagram.[87]

Two single-deck routes also received branding based on the playing card theme, Route 29 was branded as The Best Deal (Volvos 136–150, red) and route 49 Leader of the Pack (Volvos 151–160 and 170, blue). Volvos 151–160 were repainted into a new branding for route 49, The Queen of Scots with 136–138 and 170 now repainted into standard madder and white. Meanwhile, Route 29 was rebranded as The Stock Brig until both of these routes commenced double decker operation in June 2014 and March 2015 respectively. The 29 retained an orange roof but with no "Stock Brig" branding until the launch of the Lothian Country service to South Queensferry, when the previously orange topped vehicles were repainted for use on route 43/X43.[citation needed]

Connect branding

Mid 2009 saw the introduction of Connect branding,[88] with the first example being red-based 26 Connect: Clerwood, City Centre, Seton Sands / Tranent This supersedes the earlier playing card theme. The second example applies to new, buggy friendly vehicles on route 22, with the branding 22 Connect: Gyle + Edinburgh Park, City Centre, Ocean Terminal The base colour here is pink. A third example was applied to bus 720 on route 3, with the legend 3 Connect. The base colour here is yellow, and was applied together with a new interpretation of the classic madder and white livery. The 3 Connect branding was replaced by The Lady Victoria branding in October 2010.[citation needed]

Zoom to the Zoo advertising
Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TL on route 26 Connect red livery with Zoom to the Zoo zebra advertising

In June 2009 Lothian Buses entered into a two-year deal with Edinburgh Zoo to create a fleet of ten vehicles carrying animal-themed advertising designs over Route 26 Connect branding.[89][90] Five variations exist, on two vehicles each:

  • "Glide to the Antarctic - Penguins
  • "Trek to China - Panda's
  • "Hop to the Amazon - Frogs
  • "Cha Cha to Chile - Flamingos
  • "Swing into Africa - Chimpanzee

Now, the new 26 fleet has introduced some new advertising on the side of their buses including:[citation needed]

  • We come and Go - Chameleon
  • Sit back and relax - Panda
  • Travel with pride - Lion
  • Feeling Fabulous - Flamingo
  • Red-dy To Go - Red Panda
  • The Cat's Pajamas - Tiger
  • Crossing The City - Zebra
  • Koality Assured - Koala
  • Otterly Awesome - Otter
  • Join Our Parade - Penguin

Tourist services[edit]

History of tour operations[edit]

Lothian Buses have operated city tours using white liveried coaches. Later, Leyland Atlanteans were employed in this same livery, with blinds for City Tour. These wore an updated version of the white livery with blue detailing after a short period. An Edinburgh Classic Tour was set up in 1989 using open top Leyland Atlanteans, and later Leyland Olympians, which competed with Guide Friday.[91] This was as a result of Guide Friday introducing competition on the city centre to Airport route. The buses wore a blue and white livery, each carrying a name e.g.Scottish Star, Lothian Star and Highland Star. Lothian Buses also operated open top tours in Oxford (in conjunction with local operator Tappins) and Cambridge under the Classic Tour identity.

Lothian tour buses (L-R): City Sightseeing, Mac Tours, Majestic Tour and Edinburgh Tour on Waverley Bridge
Open top AEC Routemaster on a Mac's Tours service in August 2010
Wright Eclipse bodied Volvo B7RLE in August 2013

Vehicle tracking[edit]

Lothian Buses are active members of the Bustracker system and are responsible for the funding of it as well as being partly responsible for the operation of it.[92] It operates by tracking the movements of buses; computers then relay this information to the designated bus tracker signs throughout the city giving real-time and more up-to-date information on when buses are due to the passengers.[93]

In December 2009, it was announced that following the success of Bustracker, an application had been developed for the iPhone that is similar to the way Bustracker works. It allows people to download an application to their iPhone that enables them to see where their nearest bus stop is and when the bus is due. Although not developed by Lothian Buses or The City of Edinburgh Council, the application has now won the backing of both companies.[94] My Bus Edinburgh is an application developed for the Android platform which is similar in functionality to the iPhone application. Like the iPhone application, this application is developed by an independent developer, backed by Lothian Buses and The City of Edinburgh Council, and is available free of charge.[95]

In August 2010, the company introduced an early running alarm system for drivers, which is linked into the automatic vehicle tracking system, and sounds an alarm and displays warning messages if the bus is running early.[96] This was as a result of the company being fined £10,500 by the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland, having been found to be running buses early. After a customer complaint, Vehicle and Operator Services Agency monitored services 4, 16, 27 and 45 in February 2010, and found that of 303 instances, 44 buses were running early, despite starting the route on time, while 20 were running late. The company's defence was that they had built in some running time to cope with the delays due to tram works, but in some places, these works had ended early. The Commissioner accepted this defence, and chose not to take action against the company's operating licence (which authorises a maximum of 700 vehicles). Instead the Commissioner imposed a fine set much lower than the legal maximum (calculated as £550 * 700 vehicles = £385,000)[97]

In popular culture[edit]

Since 2006, Lothian Buses Seafield depot has been used as the setting for the CBeebies programme Me Too! under the name of Riversea Buses. The company's staff also feature in the show. Of the firm's participation in the series, the company's then Chief executive officer Neil Renilson said "It's a good opportunity to keep public transport in the eye of the next generation of customers."[98]


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External links[edit]

Media related to Lothian Buses at Wikimedia Commons