Self-driving buses: Passengers travel on full-size vehicle for the first time in the UK

Passengers have travelled on a full-size self-driving bus for the first time in the UK, with one of them describing the experience as "brilliant".

A group of 22 volunteers, part of a co-design panel, took a test journey on the autonomous single-decker over the Forth Road Bridge near Edinburgh on Thursday, operator Stagecoach said.

Fleur Dijkman was one of the local bus users recruited to provide ideas on how an autonomous service should work.

She said: "I wasn't worried at all about it. You wouldn't know the difference between this and a normal bus from the driving."

Ms Dijkman, who joined the panel through a forum for young people, said: "It's brilliant to see it come through and become this actual thing from a few drawings. It was quite exciting, the thought of getting on for the first time."

The vehicle has sensors enabling it to run on pre-selected roads without a driver having to take control.

An experienced driver will be on board when the buses are fully operational, but to monitor the system, rather than to drive it.

A bus captain will help passengers with boarding, buying tickets and any queries.

The plan is to have five self-driving buses operating on the 14-mile journey between Ferrytoll park-and-ride in Fife and the Edinburgh Park train and tram interchange via the bridge from the spring.

It is part of the CAVForth project which is expected to have five self-driving buses run timetabled services between Ferrytoll park-and-ride in Fife and the Edinburgh Park train and tram interchange via the bridge from the spring.

The buses will travel in mixed traffic at speeds of up to 50mph, with capacity for around 10,000 journeys per week, as part of the CAVForth project.

The on-road testing follows successful depot-based trials, track testing and virtual simulation which Stagecoach said put the autonomous buses through their paces to fine-tune the drive systems.

Ivan McKee, the Scottish government's business minister, called it a "hugely significant step".

"It has been really encouraging to watch the project develop through the various steps, from early testing and demonstrations through to carrying of passengers along the route for the first time," he said.

Louise Simpson, operations director and CAVForth lead project manager for Stagecoach, said: "Until today, only project team members had been able to trial the autonomous service so it's great that our co-design panel have had this opportunity, and we welcome any views they have."