More backing for Bearsden and Milngavie bus service

MILNGAVIE MSP Gil Paterson is backing the call from the SNP group on East Dunbartonshire Council for a circular bus service around all areas of Bearsden and Milngavie following the axing of a bus route which will leave many people isolated.

He has written to Strathclyde Partnership Transport (SPT) to request a meeting to investigate the setting up of a similar service currently running in Bishopbriggs which is subsidised by SPT.

First Glasgow caused uproar when it announced its plans to get shot of the number 11 through Bearsden, leaving thousands with no access to public transport during the day.

There are also changes planned which mean the 119 will no longer run from Baljaffray Shopping Centre, but will start from Castlemains Road, Milngavie, causing further transport headaches.

The bus company says it is making the changes, which will take effect from Sunday, due to a lack of subsidy from the Scottish Government.

Mr Paterson said: “Along with Councillor Mackay, I want to meet the SPT to engage in a discussion about setting this up.

“The service could also be used by people holding concessionary bus passes. Despite unprecedented Westminster cuts to Scotland’s budget, funding for concessionary travel has been maintained, which is a major win for the bus sector.

“The Transport Minister Keith Brown has made it clear in a letter to me that the decision to subsidise services is solely a matter for SPT and the Scottish Government has no power to intervene, therefore it is entirely unacceptable to state that service changes are as a result of Scottish Government funding.

“This issue must be resolved as quickly as possible for the residents of Bearsden and Milngavie and I am optimistic that a solution can be found through sensible negotiation.”

However, the idea has received short shrift from Councillor Alain Moir, East Dunbartonshire’s SPT representative, who accused Councillor Mackay of failing to take responsibility for his own party’s decision to cut the Bus Service Operating Grant (BSOG).

He said: “The bus service referred to, which loops a limited area of Bishopbriggs, is a commercial service, which in part, is funded via SPT. Over £11m is committed by the SPT to support bus services and a significant part of that will be for replacing services withdrawn by commercial operators. We must make sure that vulnerable individuals and communities dependent on public transport are not left isolated and to do that it is essential that the Scottish Government takes its share of responsibility.

“Let’s see the changes that are required at Scottish Government level and get on with delivering a better bus service which supports passengers and which is fair to the tax payer.”

Meanwhile, East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson stepped into the bus row by calling on the Scottish Government to use the extra money available to Scotland following the UK budget last month to tackle growing problems with the BSOG.

The SNP government recently cut the grant from £60.8 million to £53.8 million – a cut of 17.5 per cent.

Ms Swinson said: “The Barnet consequentials that stem from the UK budget amount to £9m for 2012/13 and £7m for 2013/14. This would cover cuts made to the BSOG.

“The extra money coming from Westminster gives the SNP a chance to do something to help passengers.

“There are now enough funds to plug the shortfall for the next two years so that bus operators can prepare for changes, keep fares down and protect vital routes.

“Giving this money directly to local councils and transport providers will also allow decision making to be done by the people who know what is best for the communities they serve.

“We should be promoting the use of buses in an effort to cut our carbon emissions, not reducing routes.”