When it comes to buses in West Lothian, use them or lose them

“Use it or lose it” is the message to the West Lothian public who have been thrown a bus service lifeline by Lothian Country, a veteran Labour councillor said today.
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Councillor Tom Conn’s comments come less than a week after Lothian Country announced it was tendering for two new services and extending a third to take on routes which McGill’s are giving up.

Councillors around the chamber welcomed the decision to launch the new services which largely cover areas served by McGill’s.

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Public Transport Manager Nicola Gill won agreement from the council’s executive to pursue tender processes for routes which will not feature in the new services announced by Lothian Country.

Lothian Buses has thrown the area a lifeline but it's a case of use them or lose them.Lothian Buses has thrown the area a lifeline but it's a case of use them or lose them.
Lothian Buses has thrown the area a lifeline but it's a case of use them or lose them.

The bulk of routes scheduled to lose services will now see them retained thanks to Lothian Country’s intervention. Gaps will remain though, mainly in the western end of the country around Blackridge and Armadale.

The council plans to put these out to tender this week and report back before the December deadline.

In her report to the executive, Mrs Gill said: “Lothian Country have stated it is their intention to launch these new services commercially with customer numbers monitored very closely to ensure that there is sufficient demand to justify their continued operation.

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“Commercial viability can only be achieved should there be sufficient patronage and use of the new services.”

Councillor Tom Conn, executive councillor for environment and sustainability, last week joined council leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick in a meeting with Màiri McAllan MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition, alongside council officers and officials from Transport Scotland, to discuss the bus crisis.

He asked Mrs Gill if Lothian Country’s close monitoring would be a “use it or lose it” scenario. She agreed.

Mrs Gill detailed the meeting with the minister and Transport Scotland: “The key points discussed at the meeting included the impact on passengers and communities following the removal of McGill’s bus services as well as the subsequent impact on health, employment and businesses within the area.

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“Additionally, the meeting discussed the wider challenges within the public transport industry and the long-term effects of not having a sustainable local bus network. It was agreed that joint working is required to help improve the situation and, where possible, identify solutions which will support the bus network.

“It was also agreed that further discussions would be needed and a meeting date would be arranged for the coming weeks.”

A report to the Executive highlighted: “The only contracts affected by the recent commercial changes are LBS 10 Blackridge – Armadale (including Armadale West of cross), and LBS 23 Greenrigg to Whitburn, which were handed back by McGill’s and are due to end on December 2.

“It is recommended that a tender exercise is undertaken to understand the operational capacity and costs of providing a subsidised service in these areas.”

Councillor Conn welcomed the Lothian Country intervention but described it as a “work in progress” to maintain and restore bus services across the county.