Tamfourhill bus: McGill's hit back at row over passenger numbers

A bus company has denied accusations that it has not been recording passenger numbers properly to support its decision to scrap a vital bus route.
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Tamfourhill now has no bus service at all, after McGills took the decision to axe the number six Midland Bluebird route, which linked the Falkirk Wheel with Forth Valley Royal Hospital, via Tamfourhill.

Since the news broke that the service was to stop on August 13, the company has faced multiple accusations from angry residents in Tamfourhill that the true numbers of people using the service were not being recorded properly.

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The accusations have been made online, and were also raised at a public meeting attended by the bus company, and at demonstration on Friday, where residents protested about the service being axed, with many people saying they had used the bus service but drivers had said the “black box” wasn’t working and waved them on.

Kaylieanne Burnett and Lynn Boslem - Kaylieanne says her ticket didn't show her entire journey. Pic: Michael GillenKaylieanne Burnett and Lynn Boslem - Kaylieanne says her ticket didn't show her entire journey. Pic: Michael Gillen
Kaylieanne Burnett and Lynn Boslem - Kaylieanne says her ticket didn't show her entire journey. Pic: Michael Gillen

Community councillor Lynne Boslem said they have heard similar stories “over and over again”.

“What we heard at the public meetings and from any people since then is that black boxes weren’t working and the drivers were just waving them on and yet by the time the bus got to Windsor Road they were working again.”

One resident attending the demonstration, Kaylieanne Burnett, has kept tickets showing one journey had only been recorded as far as the community hospital, when in fact she was going to Tamfourhill.

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Many residents now believe the bus company was deliberately keeping the figures low, hoping the council would step in and subsidise the service.

However, Falkirk Council has flatly refused saying there is no money in its budget for the £130,000 needed to keep the service going.

The bus company has denied that there were any issues with ticket machines specific to the Tamfourhill area and says it is simply that not enough people were using the service to make it commercially viable.

A spokesperson for McGill’s said: “There are rare occasions when the ticket machine is out of order and we would allow customers to travel without payment in that case. Across our network the percentage of ticket machines working properly is around 99.5 per cent on average. Where ticket machines are out of order they are usually replaced same day.

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“We are not aware of any specific issue with ticket machines in the Tamfourhill area and we have used human observations on all journeys this week to cross check against historical data. It is not suggesting there is an issue.

“We are aware of what is being suggested in the local community but it is a straightforward case of very low passenger numbers on the route requiring a high internal subsidy per trip.”

All three of the area’s local councillors, SNP’s Lorna Binnie, Labour’s Euan Stainbank and the Conservative’s Sarah Patrick now say they are working with Falkirk Council’s transport planning department to find a solution.

Green MSP Gillian Mackay also attended the protest on Friday and has written to McGills and to Falkirk Council about the situation.

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“This is not about how many are using the service – it’s about who is using it. There are people with mobility issues for whom this is a lifeline service,” she said.

She added that people being unable to access GPs, chemists and other vital services by public transport “should not be acceptable”.