Summer bus services on Skye hit the road early but anger remains
BUS SERVICES on Skye have partially resumed following pressure from the island community.
While the news was welcomed by Sleat Transport Forum, anger remains that the situation arose in the first place.
Last Thursday, May 11, Stagecoach announced the early introduction of the summer bus service 52 connecting Armadale to Portree via Broadford to bridge the gap in service left after the end of service 601 – not operated by Stagecoach – on April 24.
From Monday May 15, a bus service will also be reinstated to allow connections between Portree and the ferry at Armadale, but Sleat Transport Forum is unconvinced by the changes because of the high numbers of visitors who have already been ‘stranded’ when they arrive on Skye.
Rob Ware, secretary of Sleat Transport Forum, said: ‘Whilst welcoming a nominal return to a service on the Sleat bus route, it is still too little too late. There has been no service to and from Armadale/ Broadford/ Portree since April 24 causing inconvenience to visitors and residents.
‘Every day we are seeing independent travellers arrive at the ferry terminal expecting a public bus service to take them north to connect to other places on the island and beyond. There are no alternatives other than taking a taxi at considerable additional expense or to find lifts.
‘Similar scenarios are occurring daily in Portree and Broadford. From May 15 until June 5 there will be just one service southbound from Portree at 11.30am and from Armadale at 12.40pm which means residents can’t visit Broadford and return the same day. And the service will only operate Monday to Friday.’
Stagecoach has promised a new service between Kyle and Portree providing connections to trains to/from Inverness.
An ‘enhanced’ service 57 from Portree to the north end of the island will also be introduced for the summer allowing more connections to visit attractions including the Old Man of Storr, the Quiraing and the Museum of Island Life.
Mr Ware added: ‘In what is expected to be the busiest summer on record for visitor numbers to Skye, the forum is dismayed this situation has been allowed to happen on what is a popular and vital summer bus service on the island.
‘ Whilst recognising that in the current economic climate every aspect of the council’s spend needs to be closely considered, it is unacceptable the conclusion of the recent re-tendering of contracts should have been allowed to continue into the summer causing inconvenience and expense to visitors and residents.
‘We support MSP Kate Forbes’ call for a review of this contractual process with operators and have offered to take part in that dialogue. Tourism remains the key economic driver for Skye and we must do all we can to ensure our visitors have an enjoyable time here in every aspect. Managing visitor expectations is key to ensuring they will return.’
The re-tendering negotiations took place between bus operators and the Highland Council earlier in the year.
One of the factors affecting timetable change is amendments to school opening hours in Skye and because of this, Stagecoach says some other services will see minor timing revisions from Monday June 5 to accommodate changes to school bus times.
Mark Whitelocks, managing director for Stagecoach North Scotland, said: ‘ We are delighted to introduce part of our summer 52 bus service early this year. W
‘e regularly meet with local transport groups across our network and it is fantastic to shape our plans for our summer bus network in Skye based on valuable feedback from the local community. We will look forward to welcoming tourists and locals on board our summer services.’
The timetable is available online at stagecoachbus.com.
Stagecoach has started its summer bus service to Armadale early.