Local Labour MSP and Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Connectivity and Transport Colin Smyth has said that the latest reductions in services by Stagecoach highlight the need bus services should be re-regulated and run for “passengers, not profits”.
The local MSP plans to put forward a number of amendments to the Government’s Transport Bill when it comes before Parliament after the summer recess, including allowing local councils to set up municipal bus companies to run services instead of simply leaving it to private bus firms. He also plans to propose that when bus companies change timetables, they must carry out a consultation with the local community.
Colin Smyth recently wrote to Sam Greer, the Interim Managing Director at Stagecoach West Scotland after the company made cuts to the 246 service between Dumfries and Cumnock.
The changes to the 246 Dumfries to Cumnock service in early July saw the complete removal of the 1830 Northbound with the 2235 service axed on a Friday and Saturday. The 2030 service will now terminate in Sanquhar.
On the Southbound route the 1811 service will be removed completely with the 2329 service from Kirkconnel removed on a Friday and Saturday night. The 1945 service from Sanquhar will also be removed.
The MSP was angry not only at the cuts but in the failure of the bus company to consult passengers or the local community ahead of changes.
In a reply from Stagecoach West Scotland have made clear their first priority was to save on costs rather than consult with the local community.
Colin Smyth said, “In their response to constituents concerns, Stagecoach have made clear that the services they have axed don’t make a profit therefore they are no longer interested in running them and won’t change their mind. These damaging cuts to bus services in Mid and Upper Nithsdale highlight the desperate need for radical change in the way our buses are run. These aren’t the first cuts in bus services from Stagecoach in our area and won’t be the last. Over the past decade we have seen the number of passengers and therefore services plummet.
Cuts to bus services like the 246 have a major impact on the communities that they are supposed to serve. When there are cuts to commercial services there is no consultation with local communities in advance and it is more likely to be our most vulnerable residents that are left worse off as a result. This is a systemic problem in our bus network and the only way to fix it is to see a change in the law.
As Parliament debates the Transport Bill in the next session I will be submitting amendments changing the law to lift the ban on local councils setting up local bus companies to run services, rather than always leaving it to big private bus companies. I will also be proposing a law change to ensure that bus companies have to carry out proper consultation before they make changes to services.
By re-regulating our bus network we will be able to see real change to ensure profits made on our buses are re-invested in the network.
I would encourage all local politicians to support the amendments that I will put forward over the next few months. There is no point in politicians claiming they oppose the recent cuts in services but then failing to take action to prevent further reductions in the future. Only a change in the law over our bus network will prevent a repeat of the impact currently being felt in Mid and Upper Nithsdale.”