National bus chain Stagecoach are citing a “fragile economy” as one of the main reasons behind controversial cuts to bus services..
Andrew Jarvis, Stagecoach East Scotland’s managing director, said a “weak retail environment,” is also to blame for changes to bus services in communities across Perthshire, Fife and Clackmannanshire.
Carse of Gowrie residents previously criticised the bus company after for slashing services, leading to a public meeting in Invergowrie.
The matter has now escalated with Alexander Stewart, Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, voicing concern after receiving scores of letters from constituents.
He has now written to the bus company to air his complaints.
He said: “It appears that if a route is not making a profit Stagecoach will stop running bus services, and this is becoming a trend.
“I’m only seeing the extent of the problem since becoming an MSP. I feel Stagecoach should be setting up a task force to deal with this.”
“It is now becoming apparent that a number of services are being streamlined by Stagecoach which means that some communities are being cut off at certain times of the day.
“This does not help people who live in the city to get to their workplace and vice versa.
“I understand that economies have to be made but we need to look at the bigger picture and employment is high on the agenda, especially in rural communities.
“This is not just affecting Perth and Kinross but seems to be a general Stagecoach policy and it is having an equally detrimental effect on them. Stagecoach should be doing all they can to encourage people to use the bus rather than removing this lifeline to many communities.”
Mr Jarvis said the weak retail environment has resulted in a marked decline in many towns outside the big cities.
He added: “This has had a direct impact on the numbers of people who use buses to travel to work, go shopping or spend their leisure time.
“Public sector austerity measures have also seen less money being spent by central government and local authorities on many services, including local transport.
“The changes we are making to our network of services are designed to ensure we can continue to offer a good local bus network for as many people as possible.
“Communities will continue to have bus links provided by ourselves or other operators in almost all cases.
“Recent improvements include a new express bus service linking Perth with Bridge of Earn, Milnathort, Kinross, Kelty, Dunfermline and Edinburgh to provide these communities with direct services to the jobs and opportunities available in the capital city.
“We appreciate some of our timetable revisions will cause changes to travel habits for some people but unfortunately, no change is not an option.
“The reality is that we are faced with a situation where factors largely outside our control mean there are less passenger journeys on some routes and therefore less money to pay the costs of running these bus services.
“Like many households and businesses, we have been forced to respond to the difficult economic conditions.”