TRAVELLING to Edinburgh on a bus from some coastal communities in East Lothian can take double the length of time compared to driving,  a new report has revealed.

People living in Prestonpans or Cockenzie and Port Seton face spending over an hour on a bus to travel about 12 miles to the city centre, when they could drive that same distance in under 30 minutes.

The results of Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) into public transport highlight the issues facing people in some communities when it comes to public transport.

While commuters living twice as far from Edinburgh in North Berwick have the choice of driving for 50 minutes or catching a bus which takes 56 minutes to reach the city centre, the ‘time gap’ for some coastal communities is much wider.

And while residents in Prestonpans have the additional option of catching a train, there is, of course, no direct train route from Cockenzie.

A report produced by East Lothian Council in response to plans by City of Edinburgh Council to introduce new low emission zones which could make it harder for people to drive into the city centre says these transportation time gaps make it harder to persuade people to use public transport.

It said: “The main issues with making a switch to local bus services may be expected in Cockenzie/Port Seton and Prestonpans, where bus journeys take more than twice as long as the equivalent car trip. Longniddry, Tranent and Musselburgh also compare unfavourably.

“There is a case here for encouraging an express bus service to serve commuters.”

Train journeys from the towns which have a direct link are substantially shorter but it is acknowledged that peak hour trains are currently operating “at capacity or over capacity”.

East Lothian’s MP Martin Whitfield and MSP Iain Gray have both put pressure on ScotRail to improve services on the East Coast line, where peak hour trains have been dubbed the ‘Sardine Express’ because of overcrowding. Reports of commuters being left on platforms because they cannot get on packed trains in the morning and people fainting in crowded carriages have circulated in recent years.

East Lothian Council is said, in the report, to be supportive of the general principles of a low emission zone and is currently producing its own Climate Change Strategy.

The report says that introducing the zone in Edinburgh could have beneficial effects on transport choices in East Lothian by encouraging people to use public transport more.

However, it also warns of a possible impact on local jobs and income, with companies facing having to upgrade their vehicles or stay out of Edinburgh city centre.

And it calls for an assurance from bus companies that they will not redeploy their older fleet vehicles to East Lothian, saying it would have a “significant effect on air quality, journey time reliability, patronage and safety.”