First Bus review concern

CUMBERNAULD and Kilsyth MSP Jamie Hepburn has spoken of his concern at First Bus’ decision to review its timetables.

The SNP member wrote a letter to the company last week voicing his anxiety over its decision to review services in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, and urged executives to keep those who use the buses in the two towns at the forefront of any decisions.

“It is of the utmost importance that revisions being taken forward by First Bus to local bus services are sensitive to the needs of bus users,” said MSP Hepburn.

“It is already the case that in some parts of the constituency there is next to nothing in the way of reliable, regular bus services.”

Among those routes which are to have revised timetables are services 36, X3, X3A, X5, X80 and X86. Assurances have been provided by First Bus that the changes are to the timing of the services and will not result in a reduction in frequency, except in the case of the X86 service, which operates between Kilsyth and Glasgow and is set to lose one journey at lunch time.

MSP Hepburn added: “I remain concerned that the revisions being put in place may see a further deterioration in service for people in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth.

“Reductions in this service would be hugely disruptive to those who regularly use it.

“I have written to First Bus for further information on the changes being taken forward.”

First Bus have responded to Mr Hepburn’s concerns and have sited changes made to the funding of bus operators in Scotland by the Scottish Government as the reason for the revision of services.

A First Glasgow spokesperson said: “Changes made by the Scottish Government to the funding it provides Scottish bus operators has meant that we have had to review our network.

“We are making minor changes to departures times, rather than changes to frequency, of services in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth.

“The timetable for service X86 remains unchanged except for one journey around lunchtime which is being withdrawn.”

This comes on the back of a statement made by First Bus Managing Director Ronnie Park this year, who said that changes to funding of bus operators would result in fair rises.

Speaking last month, Mr Park said: “Decisions taken by the Scottish Government to make substantial cuts to the funding it provides Scottish bus operators has triggered fare rises and service cuts across Scotland.

“Unfortunately, similar action at First Glasgow is unavoidable. Such are the significance of the Scottish Government cuts that the business simply cannot absorb them without looking at service cuts or fare rises.

“No final decisions have been taken yet as to exactly what action we will take, however, I can assure customers that we will do everything we possibly can to ensure that any changes are kept to an absolute minimum.”

At the time, Mr Hepburn said that cuts had to be made in Scotland as a result of cuts to the overall Scottish budget from Westminster.

However, two local Labour politicians have made explosive responses, with one of them accusing the SNP of hypocrisy.

MP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, Gregg McClymont said: “The SNP’s crocodile tears over deteriorating bus services will fool no-one. I would be interested to know if Mr Hepburn has raised this issue with his own Government, who have the power to regulate bus services in Scotland.

“If the SNP didn’t depend on Stagecoach bus tycoon Brian Souter to bankroll their election campaign to the tune of half a million pounds last year, then maybe they would get around to ensuring that Cumbernauld had a decent bus service.

“This is another example of the SNP trying to shift the blame on to anyone but themselves. It’s time the SNP hypocrisy stopped.”

Central Scotland List MSP, Mark Griffin added: “It is all very good to write to First Bus, but what Mr Hepburn should really be doing is seeking answers from his own Government, which has cut the Bus Service Operators Grant by 20%. This is a cut that could force times to be reduced and even lead to services being cancelled.

“Ronnie Park from First Bus has said that the SNP’s cut will have a ‘significant impact’ on services.

“It is time for the SNP Government to stop their ill-judged cut, which could make an already poor service worse.”