Nationalising buses is the only answer
Sir, John Fotheringham needs a reality check (‘Delay over new buses questioned’, Lochaber Times, June 8). I would suggest the article about Stagecoach/ Citylink is more a dig at Stagecoach’s Fort William depot.
The Highland Council awarded bus contracts to another operator without thought of the implications that giving some services to Shiel Buses would have for customers or to the viability of Stagecoach’s operation within Fort William and surrounding areas.
We now have two bus companies operating two different ticketing systems which have, in some cases, doubled passengers’ weekly travel costs. This has occurred because the new operator was allowed to cherrypick some services they can run – daytime services to Upper Achintore – but handing the service back to Stagecoach for the same evening service which then requires the passenger to buy another ticket.
Highland Council’s answer is that it is ‘talking’ to Stagecoach and Shiel to sort a problem it caused in the first place, a problem it states will be fixed in the future while the customer pays the price for the council’s incompetence.
Citylink stated last year it received very few complaints about services out of Fort William and has announced its operator, Stagecoach, has ordered new buses to be delivered towards the end of the year.
Drivers have a robust defect reporting system that is carried out before the bus leaves the depot and can log faults that may occur during the day which can then be looked at.
What does happen, though, and Mr Fotheringham’s is a good example, is that passengers complain to the drivers but do not bother taking it any further or write to newspapers like yours.
Stagecoach Fort William has lost a few drivers to Shiel Buses and Mr Fotheringham and others wonder why the Highland Council couldn’t have given all the services to Shiel. The truth is that Shiel has cherrypicked the routes it wants, the subsidised school services, the taxpayer-funded routes that help make the company viable and allow it to buy new buses. The only real way to give us a reliable modern transport service is to nationalise the bus industry which will spread the cost of operating rural services throughout Scotland. Cyril Bonnett, Ballachulish.