Call for re­view as bus cuts bite

The Oban Times - - NEWS -

AN MSP has called for an ur­gent re­view of the re-ten­der­ing of bus ser­vice con­tracts by High­land Coun­cil.

New timeta­bles, many a di­rect re­sult of the coun­cil’s re-ten­der­ing de­ci­sions, came into force on Mon­day April 24. High­light­ing ex­am­ples right across her con­stituency, Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Bade­noch, said the 15 per cent bud­get re­duc­tion by the lo­cal author­ity had ‘dis­pro­por­tion­ately dec­i­mated’ timeta­bles.

Ms Forbes ex­plained: ‘In my con­stituency, bus timeta­bles have been dis­pro­por­tion­ately dec­i­mated as an out­come of these re-ten­der­ing de­ci­sions.

‘For ex­am­ple, on the Black Isle there is now no com­muter ser­vice from Cul­bokie to In­ver­ness and the 26 ser­vice to Fortrose has been ef­fec­tively halved to an hourly ser­vice.

‘In Lochaber, life­line ser­vices for Achar­a­cle and parts of Skye have been al­most en­tirely re­moved.’

Ms Forbes told the Lochaber Times she has writ­ten to se­nior of­fi­cials at the High­land Coun­cil call­ing for the re­cent re-ten­der­ing ex­er­cise to be re­viewed at the first avail­able op­por­tu­nity. ‘It ap­pears to me de­ci­sions have been made largely on cost, with less con­sid­er­a­tion given to the value bus ser­vices pro­vide to ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. While I ap­pre­ci­ate fi­nan­cial con­straints re­quire ser­vice re­duc­tions, I re­it­er­ate the 15 per cent bud­get cut ap­pears to have re­sulted in a much greater loss of ser­vices.’ A spokesper­son for North Scot­land Stage­coach told the

Lochaber Times Cul­bokie will still have a bus ser­vice, op­er­ated by D&E coaches, from April 24 adding: ‘Changes to our ser­vice 26 in the Black Isle were as a re­sult of a wider anal­y­sis of our busi­ness. An hourly ser­vice for this area is ad­e­quate for the de­mand for the bus ser­vice.’

Sleat Com­mu­nity Coun­cil had also raised concerns regarding the changes. A spokesper­son said: ‘From Mon­day April 24 there will be no com­mer­cial bus ser­vice op­er­at­ing be­tween Ar­madale to Broad­ford and Portree. The ex­cep­tion to this is the 152 schools ser­vice that op­er­ates at 7.30am from Ard­vasar (does not stop at the pier) and ar­rives Portree at 8.49am. The re­turn school bus leaves Portree at 3.30pm and ar­rives Ard­vasar 4.54pm. No dates yet have been given by the High­land Coun­cil and Stage­coach for the re-in­tro­duc­tion of the 52 summer ser­vice.’

With re­gards to the 52 ser­vice, Stage­coach said: ‘Ser­vice 52 is a sea­sonal ser­vice. It will start in our summer timetable from June 5 to co­in­cide with changes to school hours through­out the High­lands.’

The High­land Coun­cil con­firmed the de­ci­sions were made as part of bud­get sav­ings and that it is in talks with Stage­coach in the hope of ar­rang­ing an in­terim ser­vice.

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