Call for review as bus cuts bite
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.