Standing room only

RELBUS went along as an observer to the Trevelyan Hall, Pencaitland to hear what local people had to say about their bus services. The meeting was politically charged with the local elections just one day away, but political point scoring aside, the public had its say.

Judging by the turnout – standing room only – people feel very strongly about their local bus services, a position that is hardly new, which Iain Gray, MSP was quick to point out.

In the event it seems that Lothian Buses will be stepping into the breach and offering a cheaper and – we assume – better quality service to the residents of Pencaitland and Ormiston. This is obviously a big relief, though we are interested to see the detail when it emerges.

An announcement on ELC subsidised services, the so-called ‘supported services’, is expected later today. We are being told that this will fill in the remaining gaps and that no community that was previously served will be left without a bus. This is no consolation whatsoever for those communities who have no service at all. And more changes are in the pipeline to be announced soon, possiby affecting a community near you.

Paul Mclennan, leader of the current administration, has promised bus users a greater voice. This is obviously welcome, but it is well-overdue. In reality – even during the latest crisis – ELC, elected members and the operators did little or no obvious community consultation, neither did they speak to Relbus except informally. Relbus did not secure the meeting with decision-makers that it had called for.

We do need a strong mechanism that reflects the users’ voice rather than a talking shop. We need to be able to meet with ELC, operators and elected members at regular intervals. We need to work together to design a better and more sustainable way forward. This has to be more than political rhetoric, so when the next administration in place, we will seek with some urgency a meeting to discuss this matter.

In the meantime we will develop our own proposals for how this might work. One idea has been mooted: local Relbus sections, maybe run as email groups, perhaps under the wing of community councils but with support and assistance from Relbus.

If you are reading this and are not yet a member, then please do join us.  Joining Relbus is free. There is no obligation to participate in the committee, but if you do want to play a part either as a local representative or on the main committee you would be most welcome.

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Better rural buses, better rural transport options