Angry passengers say playing a ‘numbers game’ with bus services does not add up.
Since local operator First Scotland East introduced its new timetable across the district 10 days ago the complaints have been mounting.
Customers say they have been left confused and frustrated by the changes.
The company has come under fire for:
- Interfering with the popular Circular to and from Falkirk via Camelon or Bainsford.
- Scrapping the 67 between Grangemouth and Larbert.
- Forcing passengers to use more than one bus to get them to where they want to go.
There has also been criticism of the lack of timetables at bus stops to provide up-to-date information and claims that, on some routes, drivers have told passengers they will have to change buses and pay two fares – although this has been denied by the company.
Last month, First Scotland East rolled out a series of service alterations in the Falkirk area. They included revising the timetable and route taken by some buses, replacing or withdrawing others and introducing completely new services in their place.
A major change was the decision to scrap the iconic Circular which served Camelon, Larbert, Stenhousemuir, Carron and Bainsford in both directions and at peak times every 10 minutes.
It has been replaced by three buses numbered 6, 7 and 14 which now all go to Forth Valley Royal Hospital but only operate either every 20 or 30 minutes Monday to Saturday and every hour on Sundays.
Services from Falkirk to Bonnybridge and Banknock, from Alloa and Kincardine to Falkirk and from Stirling through Airth to Falkirk have also disappeared and been replaced, either by services paid for by Falkirk Council or a new service which will run every 60 minutes.
Despite the criticism, First Scotland East insist its new network is being welcomed.
Operations director John Gorman said: “It was designed to improve services for the majority of our customers and so far I’m pleased with how it’s performing with encouraging passenger numbers recorded over the first few days of operation.
“We’ve made every effort to inform our passengers of the changes which included deploying extra staff to Falkirk bus station, advertising the changes on our buses and staff distributing timetable and service information.
‘‘Overall the response from customers is positive, however given the scale of the changes it is inevitable, particularly in the early stages of the new timetable, that some passengers will have questions. Our customer services team are available 24/7 on 08708 72 72 71 to answer any queries they might have.”
Mr Thomas said the change to the Circular route was a result of passenger demand to improve links to Forth Valley Royal Hospital – and dismissed claims passengers waiting to catch a bus from Falkirk Asda to Stenhousemuir and Larbert were being asked to pay two fares to travel via Falkirk Bus Station.
He said: “There is no need for that. They can pay a single fare of £1.70 on either service 6 or 7 and those travelling between Stenhousemuiir, Larbert and Camelon can still do so on our new service 14.”