MORAY COUNCIL SHOULD investigate the possibilities of their running bus services to address the major gaps being left by service provider Stagecoach in the region.
SNP Councillors are calling for an investigation by the Council on the back of services possibly being withdrawn – and leaving communities such as Kinloss and Findhorn with no provision at all.
The proposed changes, if enacted, would also mean that large areas of Bishopmill on the north side of Elgin would also be without any bus services.
The situation was discussed yesterday at a meeting of the economic development and infrastructure services committee, when SNP councillor for Forres, Aaron McLean, tabled questions on the impact of the changes, what discussions had taken place with Stagecoach and the possible impact on the Councils’ Dial a Bus services.
In response council officers set out the challenges for communities from the loss of the services, stating that Stagecoach had now rejected proposals from the Council to mitigate some of the service cuts and, while there was some capacity in the Elgin Dial a Bus service to help bus users, the Forres dial a bus was operating near capacity.
That prompted a request from Councillor McLean that the local authority investigate running its own bus service in Moray.
He said: “I’m very disappointed that Stagecoach have not only decided to carry on and remove this service, they also haven’t taken on any of the ideas brought forward by council officers to mitigate against these cancellations.
“Forres is the second largest town in Moray and deserves better than to have a service that comes off the A96, goes through the High Street and gets back onto it again as soon as possible. The people of Kinloss and Findhorn are now also completely isolated unless they have a car and Stagecoach have basically cut off our most picturesque village in Findhorn and one of our largest employers in the Army at Kinloss.
“There is now no way for sick and vulnerable people to access vital health services at Forres Health centre unless they have a car or can get access to the Dial-A-Bus service which is near capacity already.
“I believe the Council should now investigate the setting up of a council bus company that will better serve our communities and let Stagecoach get on with ferrying people between Aberdeen and Inverness since that is all they are interested in.”
He was supported by his SNP colleague for Elgin City North, Patsy Gowans, who said: “The routes being cut by Stagecoach serve an important social inclusion role for families and vulnerable people.
“Without these services there will be many elderly folk in particular who will be left isolated and not be able to do basic things like shopping in town, and other normal social activities. That is extremely concerning for me and social isolation like this will undoubtedly put pressure on NHS and adult social care services in the future.
“We need creative solutions to this issue because if it is not dealt with then the Council will face other costs as a result, especially in social care.”