The RELBUS committee met last week to discuss the implications of First withdrawing its bus services from the county. The meeting was attended by Iain Gray MSP and by Gavin Booth of Bus Users Scotland. The meeting heard that as yet there are no definite proposals for replacement services but it is understood that discussions are ongoing between the council and possible operators of both scheduled services and school buses. The meeting’s main concern was with the uncertainty on the part of users as to whether or not they will have a service after August 14th.
Councillor Michael Veitch, East Lothian Council Transport spokesperson gave RELBUS this reassurance after the meeting:
”The loss of any bus services in the region is always of concern, and especially in this case, the threat to the depots. That said, we are in a strong position because of the presence of several high quality bus operators in East Lothian, and I am very optimistic that the void left by First will be filled. Indeed, I am hopeful that the affected communities may end up with a significantly improved service.”
Iain Gray MSP commented after the meeting:
“I was able to report to RELBUS that I have spoken on a number of occasions to East Lothian Council and to Lothian Buses, to encourage discussions re replacing the services from which First are withdrawing. I have also spoken to First to encourage them to give maximum cooperation to any operator who might wish to take these routes over, and have received assurances that they will do so. I have also made clear to all concerned that the depots at Musselburgh and North Berwick and the staff facing redundancy should be part of any discussions about an alternative provider. I know that talks have been taking place, and like Cllr Veitch, I am optimistic that a solution can be found, and that it may even lead to an improvement in services for the communities affected.”
As reported in the East Lothian Courier, First Group is withdrawing all services from East Lothian this summer. Many people in the bus industry have been expecting this decision for some time, and it may prove positive in the long term for East Lothian as more local bus companies step in to fill the gaps in services with ones more suited to local needs.
This decision by First group comes as no surprise. We expected that when the Company was released from certain undertakings by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) it would want to seriously consider its position in East Lothian. RELBUS has been concerned for some time about First’s performance and reliability locally having received numerous representations from local users. East Lothian has unfortunately been the poor relation in First’s operations with many elderly buses that are not conducive to attracting or retaining passengers. Representations to the company have had little impact although a few newer buses have come into use recently which may have improved performance somewhat. There will be a RELBUS meeting shortly to discuss the implications of First’s announcement and we will work closely with East Lothian Council, with Bus Users Scotland and with other operators with a view to ensuring that First’s services are replaced with something which meets travel needs across East Lothian in an efficient, reliable and attractive manner.
The next RELBUS committee meeting will be at 7pm on Monday 11th April upstairs in the Haddington Town House. The following will be on the agenda:
– Report back on the meeting with representatives from East Riding of Yorkshire
– West Lothian Taxi Bus (no speaker but some publicity info to consider attached to this email)
– Items for Bus Forum
– Use of any funding we can obtain from the council
– North Berwick bus/rail connectivity
– Release of First from service obligations
All welcome. Please email email@example.com if you’d like to know more.
RELBUS, the East Lothian bus users’ campaign group, has had a busy year taking up passengers’ concerns according to its annual report. Set out in the report, which will be discussed at the group’s forthcoming AGM are the main areas of concern. These are service performance on the 124 and X24 routes to North Berwick, poor connections between buses and trains, lack of comprehensive timetable information at some bus stops and the continued absence of any public transport in some small communities.
Former councillor, Barry Turner, who chairs RELBUS said: ‘The East Lothin bus passengers’ charter instigated by RELBUS has raised expectations which are not always satisfied. We give a voice to disgruntled passengers and take up their grievances with the council and with operators. But we do more than that. We continually promote sustainable travel by bus through our links not only with the council but also with the Area Partnerships, the Community Rail Partnership, SEStran and various local groups. This year we have influenced the shape of the supported bus network and have offered the council guidance on how the many new housing developments proposed in East Lothian can best be served by buses. We are proud of the inputs that we have made.’
The AGM will be on November 24th at the Haddington Town House starting at 7pm. There will be a talk by local man and RELBUS member Harry Barker who has a long association with bus operations. All are welcome. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
The RELBUS AGM will be on Tuesday 24th November 2015 at 7pm in Haddington Townhouse. All welcome, but please email email@example.com if you would like to come so that we know to expect you.
The Agenda and our Annual Report can be seen by clicking on the links.