SNP Gov blamed for our bus service cuts

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THE Scottish Government holds the key to solving the problems of communities deserted by bus companies, it has been claimed.

Anger is growing over First Glasgow’s decision to pull the number 11 service from Bearsden - leaving thousands of people with no public transport during the day.

Planned changes, which are due to take effect from April 29, will also mean that the 119 will no longer run from Baljaffray Shopping Centre, causing further transport headaches.

Calls have been made for Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) to step in and fund the routes.

In last week’s Milngavie and Bearsden Herald, SNP MSP Gil Paterson suggested that SPT holds the key to solving the problem.

Powers

However, East Dunbartonshire’s local representative to SPT, Councillor Alan Moir, says the Scottish Government must give transport authorities more powers to safeguard the future of bus services in Scotland.

He said: “The two bus services - the 11 and 119 - are run entirely on a commercial basis without subsidy from SPT.

“SPT’s funding for the provision of subsidised local bus services comes from its 12 constituent local authorities, including East Dunbartonshire, not from the Scottish Government.

“We at SPT are working hard to improve services for bus passengers in the many communities across Strathclyde who are finding it more and more difficult to access public transport.

“In the west of Scotland alone, three quarters of all public transport journeys are by bus and more service withdrawals will have a huge impact on passengers. This once again highlights the fact that the current Scottish bus market just isn’t working.

“In 2011/12 SPT spent over £10million subsidising commercial bus services which have been withdrawn - or never provided. This was done against a backdrop of diminishing local authority budgets and our budget for next year is already overspent.

“It is going to be extremely difficult to find extra cash to deal with further service withdrawals in the coming months and it is outrageous for anyone to suggest that SPT should be helping to clean up this mess.

“The belief that SPT can jump in at any time to cover losses on commercial bus routes that operators themselves have removed needs to change. Why should the tax payer continually top-up unprofitable but essential services - particularly in a recession - whilst private operators are allowed to chase profits elsewhere? It’s simply not good enough and the travelling public deserve a better deal.

“SPT has come up with a simple plan which would ensure that the market better serves the travelling public by improving service stability, ensuring safer buses on the road and making sure public money is spent where it is most needed. That plan was agreed last week at our Operations Committee and will be sent to Government and the Confederation of Passenger Transport for further consideration.

“Improved bus regulation is essential and we are hopeful that the Scottish Government will follow our lead on this.”

Councillor Moir said that SPT “could be expected to step in” over the number 11 and 119 dispute, but questioned where the funding would come from.

SPT’s 10-point plan calls for tougher sanctions against bus firms that are found to be operating to the detriment of overall provision.

Rivals

One suggestion is for the Bus Service Operators Grant to be withdrawn if firms introduce services on busy corridors that operate a few minutes ahead of rivals.

SPT chairman Jonathan Findlay said he would call on the Scottish Government to introduce legal changes allowing the plan to be introduced.

Government regulator Transport Scotland said it would consider the plans.

Meanwhile, Independent councillor Duncan Cumming said that a petition he has circulated on the bus cuts is expected to top 1,000 signatures by the end of the week, and the problem will be discussed at a meeting of East Dunbartonshire Council which takes place tonight (Thursday).