Council forced to step in to save bus services – again!

Over the past five years 17 services in the Falkirk district have been cancelled with a further eight reduced in frequency. Picture: Michael Gillen
Over the past five years 17 services in the Falkirk district have been cancelled with a further eight reduced in frequency. Picture: Michael Gillen

Falkirk Council is trying to find the money to save bus services that have been earmarked for withdrawal.

But Councillor Craig R Martin, who is campaigning for bus services to be brought back under public control, says it is “unsustainable” for the council to keep funding routes bus firms discard.

First Scotland East’s latest announcement of stopping the X86 and 24 services which run in the Banknock, Denny and Bonnybridge areas has caused uproar, prompting community councils to join forces to object to the plans. Petitions have also been launched to try and First to reconsider.

Dr Martin claims companies are putting profits above people by withdrawing services they say don’t make them money, while communities argue they are the only buses servicing their areas and, if taken away, will leave many vulnerable people cut off from the rest of the district. Over the past five years, there has been 17 services that have been cancelled completely, while a further eight services were reduced in frequency and other routes taken away.

Dr Martin said: “I can confirm that Falkirk Council is working with First, Strathclyde Passenger Transport and Stirling Council to prevent communities from being cut off. It is still too early to give any details but we are working hard and hopeful that some solutions can be achieved.

“I would stress again that this shows the bus market is broken and is being run for profits, not the public. And once again Falkirk Council has been forced to step in to fund bus services in the Falkirk area after a private company pulls out. This is unsustainable to Falkirk Council and more importantly not fair on the people of Falkirk.”

A spokesperson for First Scotland East said: “It’s important to point out that we remain committed to running services in Falkirk in the long term, as recent investment in new vehicles has shown, and will continue to be a crucial part of the local community.

“Unfortunately we’ve had to take a number of difficult decisions due to the low demand for bus travel across a number of services. Like any business, we must ensure that our operations are financially sustainable.

“We’re continuing to work with Falkirk Council and other stakeholders about the future of certain bus services.”

First’s current plans, which affect other local authority areas, prompted a national meeting to be called by Transport Minister Humza Yousaf last Thursday with the councils and bus firms.

However, Falkirk Council was only invited to the talks when Dr Martin found out about the meeting through a Stirling councillor on the morning the meeting was scheduled and it was too late for him to attend.

Dr Martin said: “It is disgusting that the Falkirk area was snubbed when the Minister meet with councillors from Stirling and Clackmannan to discuss the impact of bus services withdrawals has had. The Falkirk area has been hit massively over the last few years with service cuts and our voice needs to be heard.”

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “Transport Scotland appreciate the importance of engaging with local communities and elected representatives on important matters such as this.

“We apologise unreservedly for inviting Councillor Martin to last week’s meeting at such short notice and can confirm the Transport Minister’s office has been in touch with the councillor’s office to enable constructive discussion.”