The elderly, vulnerable and disabled will be cut off from their communities if a bus company ploughs ahead with plans to withdraw services in parts of the district.
That’s the fear of residents in Denny, Banknock, Haggs, Longcroft and Bonnybridge where worried community councils are uniting to fight First Scotland East’s proposals to stop running the X86 and 24 buses from August.
The X86 runs from Falkirk bus station through the town to Camelon, Larbert, Forth Valley Royal Hospital, Bonnybridge, Dennyloanhead and Banknock on its way to Glasgow. The 24 from Stirling to Glasgow goes through Denny, Dennyloanhead and Banknock.
First say the services are not profitable enough to continue to run them, but those living in the communities reliant on public transport say they are a lifeline.
Having these services in place can mean they are able to do their shopping, meet up or visit friends and family in other towns or villages, get to GP appointments or travel to work in Falkirk or college in Stirling.
The community councils are aiming to pressure the Scottish Government and the local authorities in Falkirk, Stirling, and North Lanarkshire to work with First Group and other bus firms to ensure that the bus services are improved and not abandoned, or cut to a skeleton coverage that will have a catastrophic effect on communities.
Bill Gray, vice convener of Denny and District Community Council, said: “Yet again we see the loss of services which will directly affect various communities that the services cover, which includes visitor and family members to the area. The most vulnerable including the elderly and disabled will be affected. This is the opposite of what we need with an ageing population. Alternatives require to be sought.”
Dan Henderson, convener of Banknock, Haggs and Longcroft Community Council, said: “The withdrawal of services will directly affect the most vulnerable residents in the Banknock area and the elderly, infirm and those who do not have a car will be hardest hit – and that is just not acceptable.”
Bonnybridge Community Council convener Bryan Deakin is also urging local residents to help in the fight against the planned withdrawals. He said: “We ask everyone who will be affected by the proposed changes to speak out against the plans by contacting their elected officials stating they are opposed to these cuts. We also invite other community councils who wish to be involved to get in touch with us.”
Falkirk Council say officers are looking at other options should the services be withdrawn. A spokesperson said: “As normal when changes to commercial bus services have been announced, the council obtains passenger data. This allows us to see if any withdrawn services would meet the council’s criteria for support.”
A spokesperson for First Scotland East said: “The X86 and 24 services are two routes which we are currently consulting on the future of.
“We are concerned that due to a lack of patronage, the routes as they are, are not commercially viable.
“First Scotland East’s operations in these areas have not been viable for a number of years, despite working hard to turn the business around and attract sufficient customers.
“We are therefore consulting with a wide range of different groups, including Falkirk Council and Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, to determine a way forward for these services and services in the area.”
‘Consider the impact on older people’
Age Scotland is urging concerned parties to work together to ensure bus connections remain in the communities they are needed.
The charity, which provides services and support for older people, is concerned any cuts to bus services in the affected areas would have a detrimental effect.
An Age Scotland spokesperson said, “Good bus connections are vital to ensure that older people are able to get out and about in their communities.
“We would encourage Falkirk Council to work with all community groups and First Bus to try and mitigate any cuts considering the considerable onward impact they could have on people who live along the route.”
Business owners in the areas serviced by the X86 and 24 are also fearing their trade will be disrupted if local bus services are taken away.
Linda Toner, who has owned the Crop Shop hair salon in Banknock, said: “I have older customers who travel from all over, Kilsyth too, and if these buses stop it will definitely have a negative impact on my business.
“Regular customers also use these services and I’m not the only one with a business here who is worried about this.
Denny and Banknock Councillor Paul Garner has gathered over 1500 signatures on a petition objecting to the plans.
He said: “First say they are reviewing the services and that would be fine.
“If they are talking about taking away buses at the quieter times, you can’t really argue with that, but they are proposing taking away every bus which cannot be allowed to happen.”