Sum­mer bus ser­vices on Skye hit the road early but anger re­mains

The Oban Times - - NEWS -

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.

F20SkyeNewDe­pot

Stage­coach has started its sum­mer bus ser­vice to Ar­madale early.

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