Orkney MSP Liam McArthur today held urgent talks with Stagecoach following local anger at planned cuts to bus services between Inverness and Gills Bay.
Mr McArthur spoke with Stagecoach’s Commercial Manager for the North of Scotland, William Mainus, and Stagecoach’s North Scotland Managing Director, Mark Whitelocks, to highlight concerns about the impact changes to the x97 and x99 services will have on those looking to get to and from Orkney.
Mr Mainus and Mr Whitelocks confirmed that a recent loss of contracts in Caithness had led to Stagecoach reducing its local vehicle fleet and restructuring some of its services, including those linking Gills Bay and Inverness.
Speaking afterwards, Mr McArthur said:
“I am disappointed that more progress was not made during these discussions with Stagecoach. I’m encouraged that the northbound service from Inverness will in fact connect in Wick to meet the evening sailing from Gills Bay, but the news regarding the southbound service in the morning is less positive. It seems that passengers coming off the Gills Bay ferry face a 90 minute wait in Wick before being able to catch the x99 down to Inverness.
“Stagecoach insist that numbers using the route have been very limited over recent months. This is something that I will be verifying with Pentland Ferries. In any event, it is still a service that provides an important link for locals and visitors alike. The risk is that poor connections southbound will put off people from using it altogether, leading to further cuts in future.
“Stagecoach have agreed to have further discussions with Pentland Ferries about how this can be avoided. I will certainly do what I can to support those efforts.”
Mr McArthur also raised concerns about the lack of prior consultation about the changes with elected representatives in Orkney. Stagecoach accepted that this had been an oversight and would be rectified in relation to any future service changes being considered by the company.
Commenting, Orkney’s MSP said, “Given the impact these changes are likely to have on people travelling to and from Orkney, I was surprised not to have been given prior warning by Stagecoach. The company accepts that this was a mistake on their part and that steps have been taken to avoid it happening again in the future”