Travel firm re­futes claim pub­lic left in dark over route changes

The Oban Times - - News - STEVEN RAE srae@oban­

A COM­MU­NITY coun­cil­lor has claimed a travel firm has failed to con­sult the pub­lic about changes to bus routes from Fort Wil­liam and In­ver­ness, leav­ing trav­ellers with a sub-stan­dard ser­vice.

John Fother­ing­ham, chair­man of Spean Bridge, Roy Bridge, and Ach­nacarry Com­mu­nity Coun­cil, reg­u­larly trav­els be­tween the town and In­ver­ness through his work as the chair­man of a char­ity in the city.

He has writ­ten to Scot­tish Ci­tylink to com­plain about the qual­ity of ve­hi­cles used on the route and changes to the ser­vices. Scot­tish Ci­tylink is 35 per cent owned by Stage­coach. Stage­coach North Scot­land has taken over some of the ser­vices on the route.

The op­er­a­tor is re­mov­ing four jour­neys be­tween Fort Wil­liam and In­ver­ness, the 919 route, on Novem­ber 23.

The com­pany has said the im­pact of the changes will be min­imised by Stage­coach North Scot­land’s ser­vice 19, start­ing on Novem­ber 23, which will fol­low the same jour­ney pat­tern as the 919 ser- vice, but at al­tered times. One of the con­cerns raised by Mr Fother­ing­ham is the im­pact on con­nec­tions with West Coast Mo­tors’ ser­vice 918, Oban to Fort Wil­liam.

He said: ‘I understand that Stage­coach man­age Ci­tylink in the High­lands and are part of Ci­tylink, but surely th­ese are not ac­cept­able stan­dards. Why are we in Lochaber treated as sec­ond- class trav­ellers?

‘A spokesman for Scot­tish Ci­tylink said a 15-week con­sul­ta­tion would take place and in an email it was said it would be ‘an ex­ten­sive one’.

‘In fact it con­sisted of one meet­ing on Au­gust 19 at which two rep­re­sen­ta­tives claimed it was purely a pre­lim­i­nary ad­vice.

‘They were not able to sup­ply ei­ther pro­posed timeta­bles, nor al­low those present to ex­press any com­plaint con­trary to the story be­ing ped­alled by Scot­tish Ci­tylink.’

How­ever, a spokesper­son from Scot­tish Ci­tylink said there had been an ad­e­quate con­sul­ta­tion and ser­vices were changed due to pas­sen­ger de­mand: ‘Like all busi­nesses, from time-to-time we take a look at our net­work to de­ter­mine which ser­vices are most in de­mand and which have fewer pas­sen­gers us­ing them. This is to en­sure we are pro­vid­ing the kind of ser­vices that re­flects the travel habits of our cus­tomers.

‘From Novem­ber 23, we are with­draw­ing four ser­vices be­tween Fort Wil­liam and In­ver­ness to re­flect pas­sen­ger de­mand. We understand that two of th­ese ser­vices will be re­placed by Stage­coach North Scot­land, and our re­view has shown that the other two were, on av­er­age, less than a quar­ter full. We con­tinue to of­fer six ser­vices per day be­tween th­ese lo­ca­tions and Stage­coach North Scot­land pro­vides more jour­ney op­tions. We ex­pect all of our ser­vice providers to en­sure the ve­hi­cles used on the route are suit­able for the jour­ney.

‘We work hard to make sure we are us­ing our re­sources ef­fec­tively to meet the needs of as many of our cus­tomers as pos­si­ble. This will help us to de­liver a strong and stable net­work in the longer term.

‘ We shared all of our plans with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties through an ex­ten­sive 15-week con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod and re­ceived no re­quests to change our pro­pos­als from any lo­cal coun­cil.’

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