Roadworks play havoc with Falkirk buses

Bus drivers struggle to take their vehicles along Newmarket Street in Falkirk
Bus drivers struggle to take their vehicles along Newmarket Street in Falkirk
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Bus bosses have vowed to improve the service they offer passengers.

First had come under fire for late running services on some routes in the Falkirk area.

This week, representatives from the bus operator said they were committed to serving the area – but said roadworks across the district were playing havoc with their timetables.

The travelling public had complained that, in particular, the No.4 and 4A, linking Camelon to Grangemouth, and the No.3 from the Falkirk Wheel to Grangemouth, were often late or failed to turn up.

Now First has revealed details of how roadworks, particularly those it doesn’t get told about in advance, together with congestion, is giving them major headaches.

Last month, the Traffic Commissioner’s office, which monitors the bus industry, said there had been no recent complaints about the First service in the Falkirk area.

However, following an article in The Falkirk Herald, commissioner Joan Aitken received “many complaints” from readers.

Last Thursday, she met with Neil Barker, Scottish regional managing director for First Group.

A spokeswoman said: “During the meeting Ms Aitken expressed her concern about the complaints she has received from members of the public in the Falkirk area and the nature of those complaints. Mr Barker undertook to investigate each of the complaints and will report back to the traffic commissioner.”

This week, Paul Thomas, Scotland East’s managing director, said: “We are absolutely committed to the people of Falkirk. It’s challenging times for all of us but we are determined to offer passengers the best service we can.

“There have been significant roadworks, while free parking in Falkirk at Christmas caused vehicle snarl-ups and we have also had an intermittent fault with our four-year-old Volvo vehicles which has caused us problems.

“This is a challenging environment but we do care about our customers in the Falkirk area and if they have problems we want them to come to us.”

Operations director John Gorman revealed roadworks had led to 17 registered changes to the local timetable in the last year, with six of those to the circular service alone.

He said: “To put a change in place is a lengthy process and it is important that we then let the travelling public know about new timetables. But when we don’t have enough notice about these to make changes that’s when delays occur.

“In December the No.38 Edinburgh to Stirling service faced five different sets of major roadworks which obviously caused delays.”

Peter Whyte, service quality manager at the Larbert depot, warned there was more disruption to come with further work in Grahams Road, Falkirk, planned, and rail electrification plans and bridge replacements likely to have a major impact.

Russell Steedman, Falkirk Council’s network co-ordinator said it aimed to co-ordinate roadworks to minimise disruption. He said: “However occasionally there are emergency works carried out by utility companies which are unforeseen and unavoidable. As far as possible, we make First Bus aware of roadworks which could affect their service.”