MORAY BUS USERS have until March 10 to comment on another raft of proposed service changes provided by Stagecoach.
If the changes go ahead several services will see major changes – the most notable the complete withdrawal of the Service 36 bus to Forres, Kinloss and Findhorn from May 1 – leaving local communities and Kinloss Barracks without any service whatsoever.
The revision revealed by Stagecoach this week will see the Service 33 returning to its previous route from Lossiemouth to Pinefield/Manitoba via Elgin. That service will also cover areas currently provided by Service 31 which would be withdrawn.
Service 32 to Burghead would be withdrawn and replaced by Service 36 connecting Burghead to Elgin and on to Dufftown. However, that service would no longer call at Forres, Kinloss and Findhorn,
For those travelling between Forres and Elgin, frequency of service will be three buses an hour from Monday to Saturday.
Service 30 would be withdrawn because of “extremely low passenger use”.
Stagecoach managing director for north Scotland, Mark Whitelocks, said: “We offer a comprehensive network within Aberdeenshire and Moray and our proposals for May 1 come on the back of work we have been doing recently to look at opportunities to improve our reliability in the face of growing congestion, taking into account feedback that we have had on our current services from our customers as well as analysis on the use of the current services we have.
“What our customers and potential customers think about our proposals is important to us. Following on from the success of public consultation events that we have held in the Highlands, we wanted to give our customers in Aberdeenshire and Moray the same opportunity to comment on our proposals ahead of our plans being finalised and registered.
“We will be grateful for customers to provide their comments before March 10.”
Last night a user of the 36 service, Spencer Julian, said that the change will greatly affect his trips to Inverness Airport: “I catch the 36 from Kinloss to Forres to connect with the number 11 bus that takes me to and from Inverness airport – the change will mean I have to drive rather than take the bus, so Stagecoach lose a customer there.
“On Thursday I’m taking the 36 to Dr Gray’s where I am attending as a day case. Like many day-case patients I am unable to drive myself on the return journey, hence using the bus to get there. People on low income/benefits will, I believe, be able to use provided transport to get to the hospital, however I’m not quite sure what I will do for any future day case appointments.”
MSP promised ‘full consultation’
Regional MSP Douglas Ross has also been contacted by several constituents over the issue. He said: “Over the past few day constituents have been contacting me, with several visiting my office in Forres to highlight their concerns over the future of local services, in particular the 36 service.
“Cutting this service is likely to have a very serious impact across rural Moray.
“I was promised that a full consultation on any future changes would be held when I recently met Mark Whitelocks.
“I believe that any such consultation which takes place in the coming weeks must take on board all feedback before any decision is made. The feedback I have received to date makes it clear that the 36 service in particular must be retained.
“There are also issues with some of the reductions within Elgin and I know the council is seeking to meet with Stagecoach to discuss these further.
“I have written to Stagecoach seeking an assurance that no such cuts, or indeed withdrawal of services, will be implemented without a full and proper public consultation taking place and that Stagecoach will listen to the responses from local people about these proposed changes.”
“I will continue to press Stagecoach on these matters and would encourage people to take make their concerns known directly to the company. It is vital that we retain these services.”
A public presentation on the proposed changes is to be held at the St Giles Centre in Elgin on March 7 from 9am to 5pm.