Travel firm refutes claim public left in dark over route changes
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.’