Angered Skinflats residents claim they have been left to live in an “open prison” following Falkirk Council’s decision to scrap a bus service which they say is vital to the village.
The F23, which has connected Skinflats with Stenhousemuir, Carronshore and Grangemouth town centre since its launch in 2017, will pick up and drop off its final passengers on Friday, April 19 after the local authority deemed the route as being too costly for its “historically very low usage”.
The news has come as a hammer blow for those who have come to rely on the bus, run by Bryans Coaches, to travel from the village, which is already without a shop and will soon see its school, Bothkennar Primary, shut down with pupils being accommodated at Beancross Primary, Grangemouth as of August.
Villagers’ frustrations were summed up in a sign nailed onto a tree overnight earlier this week which reads: “Open prison for sale: no shop, no school, no bus, no way to doctor’s, hospital. Great walks in area if you are disabled. Falkirk Council say hard luck. P.S. this prison is called Skinflats.”
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Explaining the reason behind the move to axe the F23, councillor Gary Bouse said: “Unfortunately this service has had historically very low usage and although changes were implemented last year, with the route being extended to take in the hospital at Larbert and health centre in Grangemouth, the figures still remained very low.
“The ratio of cost of £93,000 to the usage rate is the lowest in Falkirk Council. We are currently working with the small number of those who did use this bus to travel on to find bespoke solutions to suit their particular needs.”
Residents, many of whom have bus passes, have met with councillors to discuss the situation, with a majority unwilling to pay for taxi fares.
Lenetta Middleton said: “We want Skinflats to be added on to another route. We’re not asking for special treatment.”
Janet Cairns added: “It’s like the forgotten village.”
One disabled Skinflats resident believes those who live in the village and rely on its bus service will become trapped when the F23 comes to a halt.
Annette Aitchison (58) has arthritis and fibromyalgia — a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body — and relies on the service to attend regular exercise classes in order to maintain her strength.
Echoing the sentiments of the sign, she insists axing the service will leave Skinflats passengers stuck due to the transport difficulties they will face.
The possibility of paying for taxis, or a Dial-A-Journey service for those with mobility issues, doesn’t wash with Annette.
She said: “I’ve got a bus pass, why would I want to pay for something else? We’ve no shop, school or bus. It’s a prison.”