Lothian buses give an insight into what the IRTE Bus & Coach Skills Challenge 2024 means to them.


Lothian, with a rich history spanning over a century, stands as a beacon of safe and reliable public transport across Edinburgh and the Lothians. As the UK’s largest municipal bus company, Lothian employs over 2,500 individuals, solidifying its position as one of Edinburgh's major employers. 

Operating a vast network of over 70 services with a fleet exceeding 700 buses, Lothian is committed to exceeding the expectations of its 2 million weekly passengers. Through continuous investment in both technology and personnel, Lothian ensures that its services remain at the forefront of excellence. 

Since 2017, Lothian has actively participated in the IRTE Bus and Coach Skills Challenge, driven by a desire to benchmark its engineers' capabilities against their peers nationwide. By fostering a culture of best practices and innovation, Lothian aims to further elevate its already renowned standards within the industry. 

We had the pleasure of speaking with Lothian about what the skills challenge means to them. 

What specific steps has Lothian taken to prepare for the Skills Challenge this year? 

Lothian looks to promote those who have not only excelled in the workplace but have shown a commitment out with work to develop their knowledge and understanding to assist in their day-to-day role. As a company we are continually updating our training as technology advances and keeping up-to-date with current legislation, which gets passed on to all members of the team. 

How do you identify and select the employees who will participate in the challenge? 

This year, Lothian intends to send an apprentice team to participate in the challenge. In order to identify who from our apprentice team will attend the Skills Challenge, each participant’s performance within the garage and college will be taken into consideration. We will be hosting an internal ‘mini skills’ challenge to help identify possible candidates to take part in the event. 

Technological innovation is paramount in both the IRTE Skills Challenge and the broader bus and coach industry, serving as a catalyst for advancement and efficiency. What role does technology play in your bus company, especially in terms of training and skill development? 

At Lothian we consistently invest in our technology to ensure our people always have the right tools to help them on the job. Lothian’s fleet is among the youngest in the UK, and our engineers are familiar with working with the latest technologies. We also work closely with manufacturers to ensure we keep up with the continual advancing technologies and provide adequate training, ensuring our teams are always on the front foot of this ever-evolving industry. 

As a business, we are in the process of making changes to our existing fleet with the purchase of 50 new Volvo BZL electric double deck buses which will help reduce Lothian’s carbon footprint and help drive the business towards meeting our Net Zero goal. 

Diversity and inclusion are integral aspects of the Skills Challenge. As an organisation, what initiatives do you have in place to encourage greater participation of women in this sector? 

Lothian has taken a number of steps to encourage more women into the sector. This year, we hosted a ‘Women in Engineering’ event with a local high school to promote our apprenticeship scheme to a group of girls aged approximately 14-16. The pupils had the opportunity to hear from Lothian’s three current female engineers, two of whom are in our apprenticeship scheme. The business consistently champions their efforts and their role at the business, showcasing their work on the company’s internal and external comms platforms, including social media channels. 

Lothian is a proud partner of Women in Transport, and has a number of female representatives who have signed up as corporate members of the organisation. Lothian has also taken part in a ‘Women in Bus and Coach’ promotional video which highlighted the roles of various women across the business, including drivers, engineers, operational support and finance staff. Lothian is open to all initiatives that will shine a light on the inclusive, diverse workplace that we provide to all its people. 

We hope that by shining a light on their efforts, more women and girls will follow their passion for engineering and join our teams across our workshops.