At the end of last year we asked for residents' views on public transport on the Black Isle. We collated the responses and sent them to our three Ward Councillors. Here is the email we sent and in red the response from the Passenger & School Transport lead at the Highland Council. He also passed on the email to Stagecoach because several of the comments related to their commercial services.
You may be aware that Fortrose and Rosemarkie Community Council recently asked residents for feedback on local public transport. We thought an information-gathering exercise might be of use to our Ward Councillors if/when you next have an opportunity to discuss the matter with Highland Council officials and/or the service provider. We are happy to pass on details if required, but we thought a summary would be helpful at this stage:
We had 6 emails and around 26 Facebook comments (before the Black Isle Noticeboard Facebook administrator turned off responses) and a discussion with our five Young Councilors (aged 15-17).
The single biggest complaint was the cancellation of the late bus back from Inverness.
16 people commented - many mentioning the cost of a taxi (£45-50) alternative, and the limiting effect it had on attending events, eg Eden Court, and on job opportunities.
This was a budget saving agreed by the Council last year. Passenger numbers on this service were very low, having failed to recover from the covid lockdown. However, I am happy to find out from Stagecoach how passenger trends have been on their evening services in general in the last year. I’m afraid I do not have any budget to enable the restoration of the late evening service but I will keep the matter in mind in case an opportunity arises.
There were 4 comments relating to the lack of a bus service serving Feddon Hill in Fortrose - a housing estate with an elderly population only accessible via a long steep climb.
The location and road layout of Feddon Hill does make it rather difficult to serve by bus. I remember that it was served several years ago, but I don’t have details of how regularly or how many passengers it carried from there. It would be for Stagecoach to assess whether they would be able to alter their Service 26 route to include Feddon Hill.
There were 2 comments regarding reliability especially in the morning (impacting employment and college attendance). The Young Councillors raised this verbally.
I am aware that reliability has improved since the introduction of Stagecoach’s new buses, but as these are commercial services, it would be for them to respond to.
There were 2 comments regarding poor timetabling (eg lack of coordination around arrival times of buses for onward train travel).
Buses on the route are generally hourly. There are several possible connections in Inverness (trains to Edinburgh/Glasgow or Aberdeen, or Citylink buses to these and other places). Building a timetable around one connection is likely to adversely affect another. With an hourly bus service, it is possible, most of the time, to make a reasonable connection. Morning connections into Trains to the south are typically in the range of 20 to 30 minutes.
Other issues raised:
lack of wheelchair-accessible buses
All buses are wheelchair accessible.
cost of tickets (raised by Young Councillors, who although they travel free, say it's not cost effective to travel as a family so family trips are by car).
Fares are set by Stagecoach.
lack of facilities to carry a bike which would enable onward/return journeys from bus stop
There are practical difficulties in providing for bikes on buses, but the HiTrans “Hi-bike” bike share scheme can be used for onward journeys.
lack of service between Rosemarkie and Fortrose for those too elderly to walk
All Service 26 buses go through Rosemarkie and Fortrose.
lack of a service between Dingwall and the Black Isle
This is admittedly a limited service (run under contract to the Council), but there are two buses each way on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from north Black Isle on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
positive feedback on the condition of the new buses on the route
Good to know!
put trackers on buses to make the app more accurate
a park and ride in Tore with linking services - esp to Inverness and Dingwall
A park & ride is being investigated as one of our Bus Partnership Fund projects.
With best wishes