Transport giant Stagecoach East Scotland says it will “patiently await” the outcome of talks this week which are expected to scrap controversial charges at Fife’s Park and Ride sites .
Councillors on the assets, property and facilities committee will meet on Thursday to consider a proposed agreement between Fife Council and the bus firm to provide an alternative to the proposed £1 daily parking charge at Ferrytoll and Halbeath.
The new fees were set to be introduced to help offset future running costs associated with the facilities, but Stagecoach approached the local authority – just as traffic regulation orders (TROs) were being finalised – amid fears the charges could have a detrimental effect on the commercial viability of services.
The TROs have now been put on hold, and a private paper detailing the alternative proposal and commercial terms of the deal is expected to be approved by councillors this week.
Labour administration councillor Altany Craik said he was sure the committee would give the issue its “full attention” this week.
“While I cannot speak to the confidential papers, that the committee will consider in private, a deal that means the daily charge isn’t implemented will be popular,” he said.
“Continual, relentless pressures on the council budget have meant having to accept difficult choices.
“I am pleased though that working together, away from the public glare, we have managed to find a way forward.
“I was pleased by the desire to work together for a solution and our thanks should go to council officers and Stagecoach for the professional way this has been handled.”
Conservative Cowdenbeath Councillor Darren Watt branded the new proposal an “embarrassing U-turn” for the SNP/Labour administration.
He said: “They failed to effectively work with partner organisations and instead aimed straight for the pockets of commuters.
“This whole proposal has been a complete waste of everyone’s time and caused nothing but worry and anxiety for those who rely on the service.”
Mid Scotland and Fife Green MSP Mark Ruskell said: “Three quarters of all public transport journeys are taken by bus, and it is essential that we encourage more people to use public transport to tackle congestion and improve air quality – charging people for the privilege of using a park and ride facility was never going to achieve this.
“The proposed imposition of park and ride charges at Ferrytoll and Halbeath was unnecessary and unfair and I’m pleased that Fife Council appears to have come to its senses and will reverse its decision.”
A spokesperson for Stagecoach East Scotland said: “We’re pleased our proposed agreement is currently in discussion with councillors on the assets, property and facilities committee and we patiently await the results.”