Bus fare rockets by £500 a year
A ROY BRIDGE resident has seen his bus fare to Fort William rocket by 82 per cent as he found himself having to buy two tickets to get to a nd from work.
Steven Bond uses the bus service between Roy Bridge and Fort William every day to get to work but has found himself £31.50 out of pocket each week following recent Highland Council contract changes.
On April 24, the council split the service into two contracts, one consisting of the service which operates via the high school and a second for other journeys.
Mr Bond said the council’s explanation for this is it ‘enables a smaller bus to be used for non-school journeys to provide the council with better value for money’.
However, the council awarded the contract including school journeys to Shiel Buses while the other contract remains with Stagecoach, but neither operator will accept each other’s tickets, meaning his bus fare has surged by 82 per cent. Mr Bond told the Lochaber
Times: ‘I previously was able to purchase a seven-day ticket from Stagecoach costing me £17.15, which had already increased from £16.50 at the beginning of April, which enabled to make unlimited journeys locally.
‘I now have to buy two single tickets to get to and from work costing me £6.30 per day – £31.50 a week – plus extra for any other journeys I need to make.’
Mr Bond says that, while he can understand the Highland Council’s rationale for awarding two contracts, he said he ‘cannot understand why they did not include mutual ticket acceptance in the contracts when awarding them.
‘It seems to me the council did not consider bus users when awarding the contracts, as I cannot see any benefit to passengers whatsoever of the new timetables.’
Mr Bond only found out his travel costs would increase by more than £500 a year when he went to get on the bus for work on April 24.
He said is he ‘dissapointed at the lack of forward warning of this significant increase in fares by either the council or the bus operators’.
A spokeswoman for Stagecoach North Scotland said: ‘When Highland Council contracts changed on April 24, there was no requirement for operators to accept other bus operators’ tickets.
‘We are actively pursuing this matter with the Highland Council as there are not currently any commercially provided multi-operator bus tickets available in Fort William.’
She added: ‘We are prepared to discuss the potential for a commercially provided multi-operator ticket to make travel for the local community easier following the contract changes.
‘However, we would require commitment from Shiel Buses and any other interested operators as well as an independent body such as the Highland Coun- cil to facilitate these discussions. Operators are not permitted to discuss fares directly with each other.
‘Unlimited bus travel on Stagecoach services in Fort William starts from just £1.41 per day.’
A Highland Council spokesperson said: ‘Introducing a multi-operator ticket requires the agreement of operators and a revenue sharing arrangement to be in place. In Lochaber this affects commercial bus services as well as those under contract to the council. We do intend to introduce a scheme but it will take some time to set up the arrangements.’