Elderly Falkirk passengers wait for better bus service promised six months ago

Elderly pensioners in Falkirk are still having to struggle with shopping to a town centre bus stop – more than six months after they were promised that the situation would change.

Last December, regular passengers on the F14 told the Local Democracy Reporting Service of their anger when their usual bus stop changed.

The F14, which runs from Falkirk to Etna Road and the Bog Road area, previously stopped outside Asda on Newmarket Street – ideal for elderly shoppers.

However, last October the bus company said that due to “safety fears” and social distancing measures, passengers would have to walk to Vicar Street to get their bus home.

Helen Flynn wearing a pink mask with other bus users pictured six months ago (Pic: Michael Gillen)
Helen Flynn wearing a pink mask with other bus users pictured six months ago (Pic: Michael Gillen)

Regular passenger Helen Flynn was furious at the change, saying it meant some of the service’s regulars were having to give up their frequent trips to the supermarket – and that meant giving up their independence.

“It’s not a great distance if you have your health and mobility, but for people who don’t, they are struggling,” she said.

“It’s just nonsense to say it is because of social distancing – the Vicar Street bus stop is often so busy that people are having to step into the middle of the road to get past.”

At the time, David Phillips, Operations Director for First Midland, said that changes to the F14 route had been made in conjunction with Falkirk Council and were due to a social distancing review.

And in December Falkirk Council promised: “We are working closely with First to reinstate Service 14 to the bus stop at Asda in the new year.”

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More than six months on, the service remains at Vicar Street and a frustrated Mrs Flynn has been unable to get any answers about when, or if it will return to Newmarket Street.

She said: “You now see abandoned trollies at the bus stop just about every day – you can see that elderly people are struggling to get there.”

A spokesperson for First Bus said that when the company promised to review the move, they hadn’t been expecting to be placed back into lockdown after Christmas and for so long.

It is understood that Falkirk Council intends to look at the situation as part of a review in the relatively near future, but it has not been able to give any details.

The bus stops at Newmarket Street have caused problems since Falkirk bus station closed and a consultation is now starting on proposed changes to the area.

But any work won’t start until January 2022 at the earliest and Mrs Flynn says pensioners simply can’t wait that long.

She said: “It is ridiculous the amount of time it has taken – it has already been seven months.

“This might not seem like a big issue to some, but this change means that people are finding it hard to keep their independence – and that is such a precious thing when you are older.

“It’s been a hard enough struggle for older people recently without this.

“There has to be more communication from the council and the bus company about what is happening.”

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