First Minister will be asked to step in on buses

Duncan Cumming Save Our Buses.

Duncan Cumming Save Our Buses.

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THE Scottish Government has been asked to intervene to save bus services due to be pulled from parts of Bearsden.

A meeting of East Dunbartonshire Council (EDC) last week saw calls made for the SNP administration to change the way it funds operators in a bid to protect communities.

First Glasgow sparked outrage recently when it announced that, from April 29, the number 11 will no longer run through Bearsden, leaving thousands without any public transport during the day.

Planned changes will also see the 119 service no longer run from Baljaffray Shopping Centre, causing further transport headaches.

At a full EDC meeting, all councillors - with the notable exception of the SNP group - backed a motion calling for various bodies, including Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) and the Scottish Government to work together to find a way of saving the routes.

The motion also “noted with concern” Holyrood’s decision to “reduce the budget for the Bus Service Operators Grant by 20 per cent” and called on the Nationalist administration to “change the methods it uses to calculate payments to operators” which will have a “harmful effect on bus services across East Dunbartonshire.”

Following a vote, councillors agreed to instruct the chief executive to write to First Minister Alex Salmond to “reconsider decisions” which will have “harmful social and environmental consequences.”

Councillor Alan Moir, EDC’s SPT representative, said: “The current deregulated bus market is failing many local communities and the fall out of the proposed service reduction across East Dunbartonshire and beyond in the coming months simply endorses the fact that the status quo is no longer an option.

“We need commercial operators, the SPT and the Scottish Government to work together and others need to put petty party politics to one side and start addressing the real issue of communities being isolated and cut off. We need to move away from the blame game.

Blame

“I look forward to receiving a positive response from the Scottish Government and hope they will use the powers it has within it’s gift to make the necessary changes.”

Bearsden councillor and LibDem group leader Ashay Ghai, who tabled the motion, said: “I was pleased that the motion passed but disappointed that SNP councillors could not put party politics aside and stand up for local residents.

“Proposals such as an end to the number 11 service and diversion of the 119 away from Baljaffray Shopping Centre will heavily affect many local people and are unacceptable.

“In addition to our grassroots campaign against the withdrawal of vital bus services, the LibDem group believed it vitally important to exert maximum pressure on the Scottish Government to reconsider their severe cut in bus service operator grants.

“The decision has consequences both locally and throughout Scotland, greatly reducing travel options and affecting old and young alike.

However, SNP group leader Councillor Ian Mackay said: “Although the motion was well meaning and all councillors support the retention of these services, merely providing an additional block subsidy will in itself not ensure that First Bus continues with these routes.

“They will still be at liberty to withdraw any service they deem to be unprofitable.

“First Bus are already the most profitable part of the First Group, posting profit levels of 13.1 per cent in last year’s accounts, which is twice the average for their other companies.

“Does this mean that with current subsidy levels the public purse is enhancing their profits?

“What is required is a service commitment by the bus companies before receipt of any subsidy and then local communities would have a say on which routes were provided.

“It would not then be left to the bus companies to determine which services are provided on the basis of maximising profit.

“SPT is currently canvassing this change with Government, a position the SNP group support.”

Meanwhile, Independent councillor Duncan Cumming said the public have given him “huge support” by backing his petition to retain the services. He said: “Over 1,000 people have already signed. I’d like to thank all the people who have signed his petition. However, while local people have shown their support, all of the SNP councillors refused to sign the petition when asked.

“To date the local SNP MSP has also not backed the campaign.”