CALLS have been made for a Musselburgh community bus to be provided following the withdrawal this Monday of the Tesco bus service.

Barry Turner, a member of Musselburgh Area Partnership and Musselburgh Conservation Society, has urged that East Lothian Council, working with local operators, comes up with a replacement to serve parts of the town which are currently remote from bus services.

He said: “The loss of the Tesco bus must not become a blot on the much-admired Musselburgh buses copy book but should be a catalyst for making what we have even better.”

Tesco’s bus services T1 and T2 will cease because they are running at a loss, but Prentice of Haddington has announced that it is launching a new 118 service to fill gaps left by the withdrawal of the T2 service.

Mr Turner, a former East Lothian councillor for Musselburgh and an Inveresk resident, said: “A leaflet available in the store refers to the alternatives that are available but these low-frequency services, some only every two hours on a Saturday, are no substitute for the dedicated Tesco bus.

“Some parts of the town, notably the Stoneyhill/Denholms/Clayknowes area and Fisherrow, will be left without a direct bus to Tesco. This is a very concerning piece of news, especially given the fact that the Tesco bus also serves the health centre.

“It comes at a time when we are being told that we need to use public transport more because of dire warnings about the impact of climate change and when massive house building will lead to gridlock unless newcomers can be persuaded onto buses.”

Mr Turner added: “East Lothian generally, and Musselburgh in particular, is now renowned for its excellent bus services so this announcement comes as a blow and runs counter to all that has been achieved on the public transport front in the last few of years.

“Let’s hope that the council, working with the operators, can come up with a proposal to replace the extremely useful Tesco bus, and in doing so let’s try to serve some places that are currently remote from buses – Edenhall Road and the Muckletts, for example, both had buses until a few years ago and their return would, I am sure, be welcomed by elderly residents.

“I think the Tesco bus should be replaced by something very similar, perhaps marketed as the Musselburgh community bus. It should not just parallel other bus routes, which is what the Tesco bus does, but should serve some of the residential areas that are cut off from buses. Goose Green is another area remote from a bus route.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “We have made the difficult decision to stop the provision of the T1 and T2 bus services to and from our Musselburgh Extra store.

“Unfortunately the services make a loss, which means we are no longer able to provide them.

“We have worked with local bus providers to ensure that all affected areas will continue to have a bus link that connects them to our store, including a newly introduced 118 bus from Longniddry to Fort Kinnaird.

“Our priority now is to ensure our customers who use the bus are aware of our decision and of all these alternative routes so that they are able to plan their journeys.

“We apologise for any inconvenience this causes.”

A spokesperson for East Lothian Council said: “East Lothian Council was notified of Tesco’s intention to withdraw the T1 and T2 services in September and we are fully aware of the impact this may have on the local community. We actively engaged with local providers and Prentice coaches are implementing changes to the 118 service, which will start on October 29 from Longniddry to Fort Kinnaird via the Tesco turning area and will now mirror the times of the T1/T2 to allow connection from other services.

“Operators looked at the T1/2 service; the general conclusion was that a straight like-for-like service was not commercially viable due to the numbers using the service.

“The council is not licensed to operate the running of service work and our own fleet is at full capacity; however, we will continue to discuss options, which will include community buses as a way to support residents who are affected.”

Ross Prentice, managing director of Prentice Coaches Ltd, said: “We are starting a new bus service, the 118, on Monday. It will run from Longniddry to Fort Kinnaird via Port Seton and Prestonpans.

“Once it gets to The Loan in Wallyford it will replace the Tesco T2 bus by going down Macbeth Moir Road and Pinkie Road, then into Tesco before continuing to Fort Kinnaird.We will evaluate passenger use after a few weeks and hope to be able to expand the route in the new year.

“We also currently run two routes into Tesco, the 108 and 111, and, from October 29, the 118 will make that three routes which will give a pretty good coverage of the Musselburgh area to and from the store.”

Iain Clark, chairman of Musselburgh Area Partnership, said: “The area partnership has recently been presented with the findings of our ‘what matters to you’ questionnaire, which highlights a number of areas that would make a difference to the daily live of the senior members of our community. Good transport links and bus services were key findings.To this end, the area partnership will support and engage in any conversation with the community and partners which will help address this issue.”