Bus row as candidates clash over Falkirk service

Falkirk’s two Labour Party election candidates have joined forces to demand action to improve bus services across the area.

Monette Gordon and Allyson Black spoke out after last week's decision by Falkirk Council to team up with other local authorities and transport bodies to bid for Scottish Government cash to improve bus routes.

Falkirk West candidate Monette Gordon said: “They’re handing out money for bus lanes, but keep cutting the cash to subsidise the buses to run in them

"It is ridiculous that while the Bus Partnership is given £500 million to speed up journeys, councils are deprived of the cash they need to keep bus services running.”

Pic: John Devlin

She added: "Where, for example, is the bus running through Airth on a Sunday? Where is the bus to Slamannan after quarter past seven at night?

"One wonders how much of this £500 million will be spent on administration and, given this government’s history, just how much of the money will actually be spent."

The Bus Partnership Fund is administered by Transport Scotland and is intended to give bus partnerships money for small infrastructure changes that allow priority to be given to buses.

Falkirk, along with Stirling and Clackmannanshire councils, is part of a Forth Valley partnership which will put forward proposals for a funding bid.

Michael Matheson, SNP candidate for Falkirk West, commented: "Bus services, and public transport in general, has seen significant investment since the SNP came to government in 2007, and we have pledged to do more and go further.

"Bus prioritisation will benefit from £500 million over the next term of Parliament, while we have continued to make progress in decarbonising our public bus fleet, with investment of over £40 million resulting in hundreds of new sustainable buses being ordered from Alexander Dennis Ltd in Falkirk, supporting local jobs and helping achieve our environmental targets.

"Through the recently passed Transport Act, local authorities have the power to run bus services locally, for the benefit of communities and I look forward to Falkirk Council taking plans forward to do just that - something Scottish Labour talked about but never delivered."

Allyson Black, a councillor and Labour’s candidate in Falkirk East, used the debate to call for an end to the uncertainty caused by the proposed closure of the Bo'ness Road through INEOS.

She said: “If we are looking for bus priority measures how much of a priority is the No 2 service to Bo’ness?

She called on Falkirk Council to instruct officers to prepare a report regarding the outstanding application by Ineos for a stopping up order to close Bo’ness Road.

Mrs Black said: "This would mean uncertainty can be ended and the good people of Bo’ness can be assured they will no longer be faced with the threat of a lengthy diversion.”

Michelle Thomson, SNP candidate for Falkirk East, said: "I am encouraged by the investment being made by the Scottish Government to enhance our public transport network.

"What surprises me, however, is if the issue of a local planning matter was in the hands of a Labour-led administration in Falkirk Council in 2017, then why didn't they take the decision themselves instead of kicking it into the long grass?”

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